It’s supposed to hit 90 today, so we hit the park first thing in the morning. As we entered, we said hello to a nice gentleman reading on the bench, and discovered he was reading “The Odyssey”…. in Greek. Different. However, not different enough to redirect our efforts from tag, the swings, and slides.
After 45 minutes I had to leave the boys and Hannah so I could get back to work, and as I passed the gentleman again to exit, he inquired as to the set-up of our own ‘different’ arrangement. Were those my kids or Hannah’s, how did we all fit? I explained they were my boys, but Hannah watches them so I could work, and then answered his question regarding what I do. He explained he was out of work, and looking for something new, and I asked what he ‘specialized’ in.
“I’m a contemplative acetic Platonist”
……………………………………….huh?……………………… (slightly more eloquently)
He explained what that meant over the course of the next almost 2 hours. It was fascinating, work had to wait. There were some parallels to Christianity, in regards to the belief that there is an ‘absolute’ (his term for what I would call God), and that we experience this world at a Spirit and soul level. That was essentially where the parallels ended. This man was WELL educated….. I mean, reading “The Odyssey” in Greek was a clear early indicator, but he was well versed on many, I would venture to say most, of the spiritual philosophies entertained by people today. He explained his life style choice, as “a celibate, vegan, reductionist, choosing to live off the absolute minimum to survive, in an effort to draw his spirit closer to the absolute, in the hopes of exiting the cycle of rebirth (reincarnation), and join the absolute”.
I asked if this life style also predicated a conscious choice to withdraw from community, through holding the view that relationships were a ‘luxury’ that competed for our attention with the absolute. Then wondered, aloud, if his absolute was able to meet the innate need of the soul for love and relation, not in the sensual context. His response broke my heart. He longed for companions, but realizing the unique nature of his belief system, and how counter culture it is, has not been able to find any that sustain. He confessed his total anxiety at being out in a world that does not understand him.
He knew I was Christian before I walked up. He’d seen the church magnet on the back of my car. He confessed he was a bit wary to explain his background given a gentleman in his building is constantly trying to convert him. My heart broke for him again, as a portion of the Sunday sermon replayed in my head, “Have you ever heard of someone coming to know Christ, by being told that everything they think and believe is wrong?”. I haven’t.
It was a great conversation. He knew where I was coming from with my questions, even when I apologized for having to ask the obvious, “Where does the person of Jesus fit into all of this”, he didn’t blink an eye when he responded that “He (Jesus) was irrelevant, and is to many belief systems”. My friend had not been sufficiently convinced that Jesus and his life story were based in historical fact, and I knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that my role in that moment was not to convince him otherwise. He accepted the fact I believed it was, and I would return him the same courtesy. He was interested to learn where my convictions were based out of, that unlike many in his experience, I hadn’t simply accepted a belief system passed down from generations, but had worked to understand it myself. We talked about how our views of the spiritual war at work in the world today is obvious, and aligned, and he appreciated that unlike many ‘Christians’ he had met in passing that I wouldn’t fight him to accept one way, ‘my way’ as he viewed it. It confused him, that while we speak of humility and love, we approach others with pride in our own choice and hostility towards those that differ from ours.
Hannah, and the boys had long since ventured on to new pursuits, wandering over occasionally to say hello, see what we were talking about. When we both finally acknowledged it REALLY was time for us to part, I extended an invitation to a Vegan dinner, which he politely declined admitting it would be too difficult of an environment for him and his anxiety. However, somewhat to my surprise, he graciously accepted when I asked if I could pray that he find work.
I love people. I love all of our differences. I love learning about different perspectives, ideas, beliefs, where they came from, how they’ve evolved, etc… I love that God uses such a WIDE range of people to surprise and intrigue those that know and love Him to draw us closer to Him, to seek more earnestly to understand His heart for humanity and the role He calls us each to uniquely plan. I love that HIS love casts out all fear (1 Jn 4:18), that we can engage with people so different from us without worry or concern behind motive or angle. That we don’t have to worry or be anxious that an opportunity to ‘impact’ someone was missed simply because we didn’t argue a point well enough, but that we can be at peace with every decision in our life knowing God can use the big and the small points to communicate anything He desires.
I am praying this nice gentleman will find work, but I’m also praying that his loneliness will be replaced with love, acceptance, and community, that his anxiety will give way to peace, and that he can stop striving to limit his life in such a degree to be made worthy of oneness with his absolute, but have his heart softened to the possibility that his absolute is the same as God, and God will not cease, with an energy that doesn’t tire, to find oneness with him. Thanks God for the spectacular morning with this kind hearted soul. Thank you for choosing to use me as a possible catalyst to change this man’s thinking in regards to all the Christians he had met before, and thank you for the invaluable insight into the journey this man has been on for the past 50+ years! I fully believe you intend to use him for amazing things!