Watching for persons of peace is a critical skill for Christians these days. We need to be attentive to those who are open to talking to us about faith, and learning more.
My son is getting married in the summer, and he and his fiance had a pre-wedding party at a local watering hole last week. I struck up a conversation with a guy and his girlfriend. Let's call them Tim and Melissa (not their real names.)
Tim remarked on the great weather and said he'd love to go fishing. I asked him about fishing, and he told me it's one of this favorite passtimes. Then he said something that kind of surprised me. He said fishing is the thing that makes him most thankful, that arouses in him the greatest sense of gratitude. I always knew people went fishing to relax, but I'd never thought of it as a way to encourage thankfulness. "So, it's a kind of spiritual experience for you?" I said, and then he launched into an animated description of the spirituality of fishing.
His girlfriend chimed in, and began to talk about her faith. She was raised in the church, her parents are regular church attenders, and while she is deeply respectful of them and their practices, she doesn't find church to be the place where her faith is nurtured.
"How is it nurtured?" I asked. And then she went on to tell me about volunteering at Out of the Cold, and the deep and meaningful connections she has formed with some of the people who go there to eat. She said, "You know the guy you see around town pushing the shopping cart full of junk? I've had the most amazing conversations with him. He's a remarkable person."
"Spirituality is about connectedness," I offered -- and that opened up a whole new area of discussion. She told me about her work at a hair salon, where people (usually women) come in stressed and upset and she sees it as -- she didn't use the word, but it would have been appropriate -- a ministry.
This is the very moment when I am trying to find people who are interested in forming Jesus-centred faith communities that don't carry all the baggage people traditionally associate with church -- and these two young people would have stood and talked all night about the many ways in which they live out their spirituality and faith.
They were persons of peace. I've asked them if we can get together again to continue the conversation.
I'm realizing that identifying and connecting with persons of peace is a gift and a skill that we have largely forgotten. I grew up in a church where you didn't have to seek out persons of peace because they came and found you. But it's not the same any more.
Each time I have a conversation like I had with "Tim" and "Melissa" I pray that I will gain confidence and skill in connecting with persons of peace.