I remember sitting in the airport. I had already met a few people but more were beginning to gather. I made a conscious effort to pay attention to those moments. I remember thinking: I don’t know any of these people. Their faces are unfamiliar and those voices aren’t recognizable. But someday soon, I’ll know them well.
I love those moments — the ones where you know something big is about to happen, but it hasn’t happened yet. Unfortunately, it’s not always possible to tell when those moments are happening. For example, if I knew that one first date was going to lead to a lifetime of marriage, I would have paid attention a little bit more! I would have sat there longer, noticed the little things. I would have soaked it all in. There are so many of those moments in our lives — the ones that seem insignificant but turn out to be quite significant.
The scene at the airport was just before we flew to Spain to begin our pilgrimage on the Camino de Santiago. I remember seeing a couple walk toward us — the woman had the same backpack as me. I wondered if we’d be friends, I wondered who she was and how our paths would connect. Now, she’s someone I text for encouragement — we even had a Facetime date not too long ago. I couldn’t have predicted in that moment in the airport what our relationship would become. I’m so grateful I took that time to observe and wonder and step back. I’m grateful that at times I remember to be an observer of my own life.
I did it again today as I gathered with a group of Christian leaders from across the country for a four-day leadership event. I was seated in a place where I could see the whole room — each of the four tables with five chairs at each one. I could see most of the faces and hear most of the voices. I could see the excitement and anxiety and hesitation and wonder (I was feeling it all right along with them). I sat there and observed: I don’t know these people. They are all strangers to me. But, somehow, in a few hours and days, many of them will be my friends.
It’s already started. I wanted to walk back to my Airbnb but it was suggested that wasn’t the best idea, so a new friend offered me a ride. I know some people within her denomination and she was beginning to make some connections with my work. By the time she dropped me off, we had so much more to talk about and promised to pick it back up tomorrow.
When each table was assigned a topic to discuss, my table got to the point in some roundabout ways. We went on this tangent about the amount of storage units in the US and on that tangent about the newest teenage trend of “silent parties.” We also discussed the actual topic of networks and networking in the book of Acts. We laughed and commented on how old we are — we made connections in a few brief moments around a table.
We’ve already worshipped together twice — once led by a Catholic woman who had never led worship or prayer for a group of men and women before. What an honor to be in that space for that moment.
I’ve made denominational connections and work connections. I’ve made geographical connections and pet connections. We were only together for 6 hours and look how far we’ve come.
I love being an observer of my life. It reminds me that there’s a bigger story going on — that it’s not all about me. When I sit back and observe, I’m focused on those around me — what I see and who I hear. As an observer I am more likely to be unbiased. As an observer, I listen more and talk less. I wait patiently as the story unfolds in front of me. I don’t rush it because I know good stories take time.
There are some people who prefer to introduce themselves right away to everyone in the room. I’m not one of those people. I introduce myself slowly, revealing bits at a time, waiting for the right moments to be seen.
Based on what I observed today, this is going to be another good story I can add to my shelf of collections soon. I’m grateful to be an observer and participant all in the same story! I step in and out — observer, participant and sometimes both at once. I hope you take some time to observe your life… I wonder what you’ll find!