It’s love. That is really the difference. I remember having dinner with Lewie and 3 others one Sunday evening after he spoke at our weekly collegiate worship gathering. He was asking questions to us all. When we were leaving he suggested I call him to get together for lunch sometime soon. I didn’t think he was serious. I had known pastors for years and never had one ask to have lunch with me. After all, “Let’s do lunch” was a common moniker that really means “See you later”.
A month or so later I find myself in the same situation, only this time Lew says “I never heard from you about lunch.” He remembered saying this to me. He was serious about meeting with me. Someone more mature in the faith, a pastor, waswanting to spend time with me? And so it began.
For our first lunch we met at U.S. Pizza. That was the place my heart began being attacked by the love of our Father. Looking back it is interesting that I have never thought more of “the place”. It wasn’t an alter call in an auditorium. We didn’t talk about a sermon. We didn’t read the Bible. Yet Lew would ask questions about things I had never spoken about to anyone. “Tell me about your parents”; “Which of your parents are you more like?” He wanted to know my story. I didn’t know how to tell it, but Lew knew how to get it from me. He considered me important enough to get to know. He figured the Father was at work in my life and wanted to find out how and why the Father had taken me on the journey on which I had been.
Lewie was revealing my own heart to me by using my own words to help me to see the Father’s work in my life. He didn’t mind asking unanswerable questions. “What do you think God’s purpose was in allowing you go through that (divoricing parents)?” I had never considered God’s involvement in the everyday accounts of my life. Though I was the grandson of a preacher and had attended church three times a week for much of my life. I can only tell you of a few things I heard from the pulpit while growing up. I am certain those things are burned in my mind because of the fear they created due to their lack of truth. But I can tell you about my first meeting with Lewie Clark. I can tell you that after that first meeting, I couldn’t wait for our next lunch, or the next.
Growing up, I felt badly that I didn’t enjoy church. I always felt something was missing from “church”. I had decided to just accept things as they were and stop asking questions. Lewie told me he loved me and I didn’t really know what to think. On one hand it was great to have someone really care about you. On the other hand it was so foreign to hear those words that I almost felt weird. Lew had built trust with me so I took him at his word. I didn’t know it at the time, but as a child, the Holy Spirit was showing me that brotherly love was what I was longing for.
Lewie’s love and encouragement made me feel like I could walk through walls. After all, the Father is at work in my life. Why shouldn’t Ibe able to accomplish what He has begun? I soon took a leave of absence from my job and went overseas for three months for a short mission trip. I have gotten married; moved my new bride 1500 miles across the country to help start a house church; stopped leading that house church; and am currently learning what it looks like to create a culture of faith in my family that spills over into the lives of the friends the Father has given us.
I have learned that my former understanding of following Jesus, talking (or listening) about Christianity is easy, but unfulfilling. Love is hard. Love requires close relationships. Love is messy. I will be hurt. I will probably hurt others. I must help others see their story in the Father. I must help foster community among my brothers and sisters that far surpasses anything they could imagine. I must sacrifice, suffer, and pray. I must obey. I must love, love the Father, love my family, love others. For without love, I am nothing.