I was on a buzz, like a little kid on a sugar high. When Debbie and I sat in our den talking, I chattered non-stop like on a first date. I was a puppy relishing some quality time with Dad’s slipper. All these things without being particularly aware of them. It just felt like a nice afternoon. Two days later, I figured out the cause.
I had lunch with Doug. We have lunch periodically over the past thirty years, whenever he makes the six hour drive to Atlanta. This time, in celebration of his impending 89th birthday on April Fool’s Day, I picked up the check. And yet I still enjoyed the event.
Doug was the chair of my committee during my doctoral studies. In those days, he profoundly influenced the ways I think about God and how I try to do ministry. He continues to direct me to the most stimulating books recently published. More than brilliant, he is wise with insights that I continue to ponder long after lunch has concluded.
Doug taught me wilderness survival skills, as he led my first week-long winter hiking trips deep into the backcountry. He demonstrated the primary ability for survival in near zero temperatures: laughter. Disdaining campfires—“too much trouble”—our group of hikers warmed ourselves with exaggerated tales of legendary exploits of previous trips.
Doug is newly employed. He’s working part-time as the visiting pastor for First Presbyterian Church in the Carolina town he’s lived for twenty years. Most of the people he visits are over 90. “They enjoy a visit from a callow, younger pastor,” he explained. (Doug has ten remaining days to enjoy the youthful age of 88, and he’s apparently going to milk every minute.) He finds most of the people he visits to be vibrantly alive, with meaningful purpose and warm friendships. They make him look forward to being old someday.
None of the above explains why I enjoy our lunches together. I simply have to acknowledge that I love that man. I just enjoy our friendship.
Last Sunday morning, our choir sang a new anthem, “And the Father Will Dance.” The lyrics began, ““And the Father will dance over you in joy! He will take delight in whom He loves. Is that a choir I hear singing the praises of God? No, the Lord God Himself is exulting over you in song!”
That beautiful music coming from heaven—it is not the sound of heavenly hosts praising Almighty God. It is the sound of God, bursting out in song, unable to contain the joy you bring to the heart of the Divine. God on a buzz, like a kid on a sugar high. Not because you’ve done anything extraordinary. God simply enjoys you.
As my grandfather would say (at the age of 88), “Put that in your pipe and smoke it.”