The Life Less Traveled
September 07, 2011Over the summer, my favorite author came to speak at our church. I happened to be scheduled to do an announcement that weekend in the service, which I knew meant we would be sharing the same backstage space.
I could see the danger signs coming from miles away. This author is a literary hero of mine. I'm a writer. I bleed books. I have a tendency to talk too much. How could this end well?
I was dying to meet him but was certain I'd blow it one way or another and make a total idiot of myself. So, I told my wife my brilliant strategy: avoid him like the plague. Better to blow him off than to humiliate myself with a celebrity encounter gone bad.
Everything started off fine. I went to a pre-service production meeting and didn't see him. But at the end, when everyone got up to leave, there he was. I hadn't seen him because he'd been sitting only two seats away. I couldn't believe it. I was only two seats away from a guy who'd written some of the greatest books I've ever read.
OK, I thought, what's the harm? I should at least say hi. Fortunately, the weekend producer moved in on him first, monopolizing the conversation. Just as well, I figured. Better to stick to the original plan. That way no one gets hurt or embarrassed.
If only the story ended there.
About a half-hour later, I realized I'd forgotten to pick up my microphone for the weekend, and on my way backstage I stopped off in a rest room in the back hall. Just as I finished washing my hands, Mr. Author stepped up to the sink. So much for avoiding him like the plague.
We were the only two guys in the bathroom. The only two guys. I don't know how things go in the ladies' room, but men don't talk to each other in the bathroom. Not to our friends. Not to strangers. And especially not to our favorite authors.
Everything inside me told me to keep my mouth shut and run like the wind. But then some deluded part of my brain said, "Just introduce yourself. What's the worst that could happen?"
The worst that could happen is that once I started talking, I couldn't actually stop. Not only did I introduce myself, not only did I tell him how much I loved his writing, not only did I list my favorite books of his by name, but then I began to tell him how I'm actually a writer too and that his writing both encouraged me spiritually and influenced me in the craft of writing itself.
Believe me, that's the CliffsNotes version. I don't even know if the poor guy had a chance to wash his hands.
To his credit, the author was incredibly cool and gracious and did a great job pretending that he wasn't totally freaked out by the creepy, stalker fan who had cornered him in the rest room for 3-1/2 hours. OK, so it was actually just a couple of minutes, but, trust me, it felt much longer.
This is why I have a rule against meeting famous people. What good can possibly come of it? The way I figure it, our celebrity/anonymous fan relationship works just fine the way it is. Why mess with a good thing? They produce stuff I like. I buy it. They make money. Everyone walks away a winner.
But once I meet them, the whole relationship changes. Suddenly, I'm under all this pressure to create a positive celebrity/fan moment that is ripe with the opportunity for bitter disappointment. When I'm an anonymous fan, I can pretend that if my favorite celebrities met me, they'd actually like me. They'd think I was cool and want to hang out. Once we meet, though, I turn into a stammering moron, making them wonder if I'm off my medication.
Yet, by the end of the weekend, my story had a happy ending, and I actually had an awesome conversation with this author about the message he'd given in the service. Yeah, the bathroom fiasco was painful, but I wouldn't trade that later conversation for anything.
It makes me think of stories in the Bible about people encountering God. It's one thing to meet a famous person, but to meet the most famous being of all time? The Creator of the universe and all that is? People came totally unglued, and rightly so.
Yet, God has this weird thing about making Himself approachable. He loves it. Time and time again in the Bible you see God doing things to make it possible for people to actually have a conversation with Him without completely losing it.
He even set all of that planet-shaping power aside and took on flesh so that He could come and hang out with His people. In Jesus, people could talk to God face-to-face. Touch Him even. Be held by Him. All without fear or intimidation.
So many times, I think people talk so much about God that they're too freaked out to actually talk to God. Why would God ever want to talk to me? What if I don't say the right thing or use the right words? He seriously knows everything I've ever done? Oh, this is going to be awkward.
But it's not. At least not on His end. See, God's not into having fans. He's more into having friends, children even, children who are always welcome to sit down and just enjoy His company. How could I ever settle for being a fan, when I have a Father who offers me so much more?
Jason Byerly, a 1990 graduate of Crawford County Junior-Senior High School, is the children's pastor at Southland Christian Church near Lexington, Ky. He and his wife have two daughters. For more from Byerly, visit www.jasonbyerly.com or follow him at www.twitter.com/jasondbyerly.