As someone who revels in the outdoors, most of my hobbies get me out into nature. I've been birding since I was fourteen, taught outdoor education in zoos and camps, and would rather spend a night out under the panoply of the heavens than any stuffy old bedroom.
When I consider the heavens, the work of Thy fingers, the moon and the stars that Thou hast appointed, what is Man that Thou art mindful of him, and the son of man that Thou dost care for him? Every time I catch a glimpse of the night sky, Psalm 8 rolls off my lips from out of my heart.
I recently added geocaching to my arsenal of outdoor activities. Together, my son and I have found 55 hidden caches in our area in our first six weeks. It's a challenging activity and a whole lot of fun.
Geocaching presents another intriguing benefit. Not being in the typical workplace, I've witnessed my personal network dwindle to only a handful of names. Since I have no hobbies that require other people to make them happen, I decided to attend a geocachers meet-up to broaden my contacts and get my face out there.
Last Friday, my son and I met up with our fellow geocachers. About 33 people showed up. Curiously, I knew most of them by their "cache name" nicknames as I'd already come across their log entries in the caches and in the electronic logs at Geocaching.com .
I was new. No one knew me. Everyone greeted me and my son. We were immediately welcomed into the greater body of local geocachers.
Time ticked on, but none of us noticed. People shared their exploits. Stories about hard-to-find caches abounded, including one notorious one that had sent my son and me sliding along with trees and rocks for about a hundred feet when the hillside we were standing on collapsed. (Yes, very scary, but God was faithful and we were remarkably unhurt.) When I got engrossed in the conversation, the lady presiding over the get-together spontaneously watched my son so I could hang with the veterans and soak up the geocaching wisdom. And while the meeting felt like a throwback to the kinds of engineer parties I remember in Silicon Valley (I now know the hot sport for techies in my area), everyone was glad to have me there. They clued me in to insider talk, showed me their collections of treasures harvested from various caches, and made me feel like I'd been a part of their little cadre forever. We had to leave a little bit early, so we didn't get to see the gifts handed out to those geocachers who had achieved certain milestones (like 1000 caches found). That would have been nice to witness, though.
Driving home, I couldn't shake a few thoughts about that meeting:
- Though I was a sheer beginner, no one looked down on my lack of experience and feeble knowledge. They respected me for how far I'd already come.
- People made sure my son and I felt included.
- The wise among them wanted to let me know their secrets.
- The host looked after me, took care of my child so I could learn more, and dropped me an e-mail later to say how glad she was that we'd been able to attend.
- People there were genuinely excited about what they did and shared stories that bolstered comraderie and the activity itself.
- Anyone who shared in the love of the activity was welcomed. Old people, families with young children—it didn't matter.
- If people didn't immediately grasp all the rules, that was okay. Questions were eagerly answered and without judgment.
- The very best among them were esteemed for what they'd accomplished.
You can probably see where I'm heading, so I'll just say it:
Wouldn't it be great if all our churches in America were like this?
Honestly, a geocache box is nothing in the scheme of things. Geocaching will pass away like all things in time. But why then do we Christians, the ones who are ambassadors of the Living Christ, seem far less excited about Him than these geocachers do about a piece of Tupperware hidden inside a hollow log in the woods?
Wouldn't it be great if our meetings were filled with people talking about what Jesus meant to them? What He'd done in their lives today, yesterday, and the day before that? If people can get excited about finding a 35mm film canister wedged in a woodpecker hole, why do we seem so bored with Jesus, who is Lord of the Universe?
We wonder why it's harder and harder to get the lost to take notice of Jesus. I can say with all honesty that if we were as excited about Him as these geocachers are about their sport, and we conducted our meetings as welcoming and as informative as that geocachers get-together, our churches might be packed—or at least people wouldn't write them off so easily.
If you're a Christian, then you have a built-in network of people who should be on your side for eternity. Yet all too often that network suffers in comparison to some of the networks the world has to offer.
When his buddy upchucks the evening's revelry, the barfly cleans him up. When the drug addict has no place to sleep, he calls another addict who lets him crash at his place. The bartender, out out on the town on his own for once, leaves his waitress a big tip because he knows how it is.
The Bible says this:
For the sons of this world are more shrewd in dealing with their own generation than the sons of light.
—Luke 16:8b ESV
The sons of this world get it. They know they have to fight for everything because they have nothing else to back them up. That's why a real friend means something. A real friend will cover your back.
We take for granted what the Lord bought for us when He created the Church.
That's where we'll pick up in the concluding part of this pre-hiatus series. Look for it before the week is out.