The businessman next to me in this crowded airport lounge takes a call from his wife who greets him audibly with ‘Hi, Sweetie!’ before he can take her off speaker.
Though one tries not to eavesdrop, it is impossible not to overhear the textured ordinariness of their conversation via the husband’s responses to his wife in this public-private telephone partnership.
In time, ‘I love you, too’ from this airline lounge ends the conversation. For the moment.
I have briefly been privy to the steady ordinariness of fidelity, of keeping the faith, of privileging what this anonymous couple has and holds together—into middle age, I would guess from the furtive glance over at the guy that I allow myself—over a million volatile alternatives.
It has been a precious three and a half minutes of unintended voyeurism.
We are awash in the twin behaviors of the herd and the addictive originalists. Most people almost never allow themselves an original through. Others find self-expression and the celebration of what is new to be their be-all and end-all.
One worries, occasionally, for the vigorous steadiness of the center.
You then, my child, be strengthened by the grace that is in Christ Jesus, and what you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses entrust to faithful men who will be able to teach others also. (2 Timothy 2:1–2 ESV)
The apostle Paul not only writes to his virtual son Timothy in the sustaining language of paternity (‘You, then, my child …’)
He also calls for the sustaining vigor of faithful tradents, men and women who will listen closely to a truth disclosed and then focus their energies upon its faithful and life-giving transmission.
Paul was, from almost any angle of view, a radical in his own milieu. Yet even he, who might be suspected of valuing innovation and courage over reliable continuity, recognizes the dangers to the community that lie in self-centered liberty of expression and communal Attention Deficit Disorder.
Followers of Jesus do well to imitate the apostle in this insistently realistic understanding of how easily truth is lost, pilgrimage becomes mere adventure, and hope betrays those who grasp it too casually.