From the Newsletter: “A Single-Serving Life”


Dear Friends of Second Church,

Last weekend I had the chance to take the kind of trip so familiar to so many of you: a quick there-and-back to San Francisco.

Granted, it was for a wedding, not for a meeting. But as trips go, the contours were nevertheless similar—flying out Friday morning, back by Sunday evening. Don’t forget to check in for the flight home. Only put things in the checked bag that you can afford to lose for 24 hours—the robe and the sermon stay with you at all times. More free time at O’Hare than anywhere else. “No that’s not my bag in the overhead bin—madam, I’ll have you know that I am not a ‘get there first and turn it sideways’ kind of guy.”

I know that the golden age of flight is long past—my father always insisted on coat and tie for a plane, but even he has fallen back on a sport coat and a collared shirt in recent years. I have not asked him what he makes of the people (and I saw several of them) who seem to be flying in their pajamas. I kind of hope he hasn’t noticed them.

In so many ways, it seems as if the process of “getting there” is no longer something to be savored. Wherever it is we’re going, and whatever our reasons for traveling, the point is just to get there and get on with it. The people we encounter in our travels come and go, maybe becoming an anecdote to be told later—but even at best, they seem destined to be little more than “single-serving friends” (the phrase comes from the writer Chuck Pahlaniuk).

There’s too much single-serving everything for my taste.

But it seems as if that’s all we have the energy for. The ongoing conversations that unfold over days, or weeks—the ones that we pick up, and drop, and pick up again—are like the old friends we can be away from for years, but know immediately and deeply without missing a beat when we encounter them again. They require time.

But more even than time, they require a deep willingness to be real with each other.

That doesn’t come in a single serving.

It doesn’t take too long or ask that much to overshare with a stranger on a plane, or anywhere else.

But to be in the company of someone who knows us well enough to call us back to ourselves–who can see below our surfaces, and be a friend to whatever is to be found there–well, that is a precious, even grace-filled experience.

And yet what a gift it is to experience it. It’s precious enough that many of us would fly thousands of miles to feel it again, if only for a day.

That’s what it is to journey together through our days.

With summer just ahead of us, I hope I’ll remember to make time to savor the journey—to hear people’s stories and enjoy our traveling together, whether it’s on another plane sometime soon, or more metaphorically, in our walking the path together here in town. I hope I will take the time to be real. And that you will too.

See you in church,

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