Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Getting to Know You

A few weeks ago, like many people in the Houston area, I heard about a tragic bus crash that killed at least 15 people around Sherman Texas. A group of 55 Vietnamese Christians were on their way to a Catholic religious festival in Missouri when the bus blew a tire that sent it smashing into a guard rail and flipping it onto it's side. It was 12:45 a.m. and people were just dozing off to sleep. I began to think about this. I imagined a carefree atmosphere as these folks were on their way to a much anticipated time of worship. I imagined many of them asleep. Many of them talking quietly, maybe discussing faith. I'm sure that many of them had been waiting for this trip with great anticipation. I imagined that many could not sleep as they meditated on their adventure.

Then I imagined many of them awakened to the sound of the tire blowing out, the sound of twisting steel and the crash of the bus on the side of the road. I imagined the terror that these people must have felt. I imagined the fear that suddenly rushed through their bodies as the adrenaline suddenly surged. I imagined the screams. The cries for help. The helpless feelings as they felt themselves becoming airborne throughout the bus. The dark wave that came upon the survivors as they realized that many of their friends had died.

A week after the accident, I discovered that one of the people on board the bus was my tailor of some 10 years. Unfortunately, she was one of the people who lost their lives. As I read the local newspaper article, I was somewhat shocked. I just saw this woman a few weeks ago. I can see her face very clearly. I know who this person is. How am I supposed to react to this? I found myself wondering and asking myself something very strange. Should I be crying? I know that sounds odd, but I found myself in the middle of the road and wondering if my acquaintance with this woman warranted my tears. And I asked myself why? I've know this person for over 10 years, and I'm asking myself why a tear is not welling up in my eyes? Come on!

But then it hit me. I knew this person, but I didn't really know her. Yes, I knew her name and she knew mine. We recognized each other and probably would if we ran into each other in a restaurant or at the mall. We knew of each other, but did not know each other. Don't get me wrong. I was, and still am very saddened by this woman's death. As I dropped off a card for her husband at the alteration shop, I felt a coldness from not seeing her behind the counter. The shop felt empty, like part of it was missing. But to be honest, I moved on with my day. I went about life without much of a hitch. My question is this; "Should this have affected me more? Had I taken only a few minutes on any given day and talked with her, really talked with her, would I have found a tear in my eye? Would I have wept. Is that all that separated me from knowing her? Just one more conversation.

I don't know. I don't know if a few more words would have made any difference. The point is that there were over 10 years of opportunities to build more of a relationship and they were never taken. There were over 10 years to really know this woman, and they were wasted. It makes me think about the people we run into during the course of our days. We pass them at the store. We wave. We might say "Hi", and then ask ourselves, "What was her name? Don't I know that guy?"

John 11:23 records the shortest verse in the New Testament: "Jesus wept". As Jesus realized that His friend Lazarus has died, he is overwhelmed with grief and weeps. Someone that He knew had died. We know nothing of the relationship between Jesus and Lazarus. All we know is that Jesus wept. Maybe Jesus and Lazarus had spent many hours together talking. Perhaps they walked along the banks of the Jordan or the Seas of Galilee, Lazarus intently listening as Jesus went on about the kingdom of Heaven. Maybe they just sat together, shared a meal and joked about the Pharisees. Whatever it was, they knew each other and the loss of his friend brought Jesus to that point where the lip quivers, the throat tightens, the eyes well up and we can control it no longer. Jesus knew this man, and now he was gone. Jesus, the man, had a very close friend that died and He felt the loss deeply. He shed tears, as He would later shed blood. He was a man. He felt. He grieved. Lazarus had really died. Jesus really hurt. Jesus really wept. Jesus and Lazarus really knew each other.

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