I had completed my morning pastoral routines and had ten or fifteen minutes before a lunch appointment. Have you ever been in a situation where you have a couple of minutes of time to redeem but don’t want to start something too involved or important in the event that your next appointment arrives early? Well, as it turned out today, upon wandering out of my office into the administrative area I got caught up in something that was both involving and important.
Chris and Kirsten were working hard at putting together Children’s Church and VBS materials and their son Johann (just turned four) was sitting on the floor in front of the office photo-copier. He rolled a Hot-Wheels fire truck towards my office. Then he jumped up, ran to my office door, sat down and rolled the fire truck back towards the copier. Then he jumped up, ran back to the copier, sat down, and rolled the fire truck back towards my office… Naturally, I sat down by my office door and we commenced rolling the fire truck back and forth. At first it was quiet – we had a sort of gentleman’s agreement I think. He would roll it to me, I would offer encouraging commentary: “Awesome,” “Good one,” or, “Oh, it crashed!” After a while he started sharing some of his own observations: “I wiped out,” “that was fast,” or, “that one curved!”
After a few minutes he and I got to talking about Hot-Wheels in general. I got one out of my office, a 1970 Chevelle SS, and then we would roll them simultaneously towards one another. Sometimes they crashed, which was particularly exciting. Then he came and sat beside me and we raced them. In all of this, I learned several things I had not known before. First, you can tell a car is a Hot-Wheels if it has some red on it. Second, the trash can under my administrative assistant Mrs. Goehring’s desk is actually a gas station – the gas comes down from her HP Laser Printer and drips into the can and cars fill up on the kitchen-side of the trash can. Third, if you spend time with people doing what they like to do they begin to open up and share with you. In other words, you win the right not only to be heard, but just as importantly, you win the right to hear.
In Matthew 18:5 Jesus says, “And whoever receives (dechomai in the Greek) a little child in my name receives me.” That word dechomai has a great definition: “to receive by deliberate and ready reception of what is offered.” Do I want to receive Jesus and what he offers? Do I receive a newly minted four year old by deliberately and readily receiving what he offers – even if what he is offering is a turn to roll his Hot-Wheels fire truck? These questions are not unrelated. And who knows what ministry opportunities will open up for us if we make the effort to meet people on their terms, deliberately receiving what they can offer, in order that we can know them and share our knowledge of the Lord Jesus with them.
In case you are wondering, neither the Chevelle nor the fire truck ever made it to the finish line, which was somewhere underneath the copier machine. I assumed this was because of the cars’ small plastic wheels and the friction of the carpet; Johann informed me that this was actually because the cars kept running out of gas. Even though neither car ever managed to win a race, there were two winners: me and my young friend Johann.