I was looking forward to getting to speak at a Valentine banquet back in Casper this weekend. So Saturday night, we headed downtown to this little spot the church had booked and settled in for a good time. I noticed, as we sat there stacking conversation hearts, that a crowd was starting to gather just inside the front door. “Surely, the restaurant’s not open for regular dining.” I thought.
I was right… sort of. As more people filled the entry, and servers and hostesses began to look more and more flustered, it became obvious that something wasn’t quite right. As it turns out, the venue had double booked. I don’t know how, and I don’t know why, but there was a whole group of people waiting to party while we waited for prime rib.
It made for what has to be the most awkward speaking engagement I’ve ever had. To be totally honest, it was almost surreal, and I’m not sure I made any sense at all. Any semblance of order to my message was overshadowed with so many other thoughts racing through my head. I’ve never been the ‘bull-horn to the face’ kind of guy – I missed the “Preaching to the Open Bar” class at Bible College, so the whole time I was speaking (about how our love is revealed by our action not mere words) I just kept thinking “The whole back room is waiting for you to shut up and leave.”
Now, to be fair, the gathering crowd did nothing to make me feel that way. They quietly milled from the small back room into which they’d been stuffed to the bar to order drinks and back. A few sat and quietly chatted at the bar. But the noise level wasn’t any worse than a typical Wed. night with my students. It was just the awkwardness of the situation that made things so weird. I felt stuck between a group of church banqueters looking for some spark of inspiration or encouragement and a group of party-goers just wanting to relax and have a good time.
As I think of it now, I should have just invited them all out and did 20 minutes of stand up or something… I’m not sure I could have pulled that off, and I know that’s not really what I was invited for, but I wish I would have thought of that in the moment. I wonder if the message would’ve been communicated more effectively that way anyway…
The more I think about this, the more I’m feeling like I really missed an opportunity to build some bridges and help make some connections. Excuse me, while I go kick myself…
Just for the record, I’m grateful for the invitation to come and speak to a great group of gracious friends. I pray the thoughts racing through my head didn’t cloud the message too much. We are loved so much by our Creator, who adopts us into His own family. We are called to extend that love in every way we can think of, not just with words but with action. Caring for orphans, widows, neighbors… Check out my friends at 3:18 Ministries or Sparrow’s Nest for some great examples of how it can be done – and find a way to put your love into action.