Monday, March 30, 2015

Do I Know You?

I noticed him while he was still quite a ways away.  

Idaho University sweatshirt, shorts, baseball hat, the Birkenstocks,  heading clear across the lawn in my direction, following imaginary unswerving straight line.

His deliberate moves beg for a question,

Am I supposed to know this guy?

The facial recognition software runs furiously inside my brain, but except for some vague familiarity, all I get is, 


I feel sorry for the guy. Clearly he must have taken me for somebody else. 

I smile, the way you smile at a confused stranger.

By this time he’s stopped at respectable few feet distance.  We are standing face to face. 

Still no recognition. 

He smiles and says,

You are…

And he finishes the sentence by using a simple unmistakable description of one of my side roles, the label so rarely used I’ve almost forgotten belongs to me!  

My eyes pop wide open. 

How does this complete stranger know me?!!?? NOBODY here knows me in this role?

Obviously, it’s my turn now to be thoroughly confused.

I look at him again, and just as he is about to shorten my misery and introduce himself, it finally dawns on me.

I’ve known the man for more than a decade!  His face hasn’t changed much over the years.  Many times we’ve chatted casually about work and school, kids and politics.

But until today all our interactions have always been at the exact same location, same carefully parceled out context, sitting in the same chairs, each of us occupying a clearly defined role. 

As if that's not enough predictability to last you a lifetime, he was always wearing the same thing. A uniform of sort.

White pressed shirt. 

Business suit and tie. 

Carefully polished dress shoes.

Over the years, his gray suit in my mind somehow grew into him, into his skin and flesh, bone and marrow. His suit became an inseparable part of his identity without which he was just a confused stranger.
Outside his little ‘pigeonhole’, on an emerald-green lawn filled with colorful plastic eggs and bouncy children, stripped of his suit, he became utterly unrecognizable to my eyes.

I scratch my head over this and then I wonder if this might be why so many of us fail to recognize Jesus when He stands face to face with us?  

We are so accustomed to keeping Him pigeonholed in a clearly defined, predictable context, all buttoned-up into a suit of our own making.  When he shows up looking different, it’s confusing and unnerving.  There might be some vague familiarity, but no real recognition.  

We are just not ready for His surprise visits.

And yet, He knows us

He takes the unswerving straight line across the emerald green lawn, wearing Birkenstocks and baseball hat, and just as I am about to say,

Sir, do I know you?

He looks me in the eye, smiles - the way you smile at a confused child - and says,

I know you.

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