Twenty-six hours of meeting time from pickup from our clients corporate jet to drop off. This is our one and only chance to introduce them to sixty different people and cover twenty-five different topics. Every word and moment during lunch, dinner, before and after cocktails, breakfast and back-to-back blocks of presentations must be concise and to the point. Each second in the car rides must show our best and avoid negative issues, of which there are a few, as we want this brief meeting time to be ALL positive. We have $millions in business to keep and must find new opportunities to make it grow.
Whew, this meeting was the crux of stress for the past four days for this Average Joe. Brevity is not my gift, but it certainly is one of importance in this day and age where everyone is cramming their schedules full. How do we forge relationships when tied down with a time squeeze squirting its innards out during every visit?
Like always I attempt to maximize every corporate visit. During this particular week a large contingent of others were in town begging for moments to catch up and seal topics of concern. A key counterpart of mine and I attempted to cover business notes stuck on the to-do board. We scheduled three separate meet ups and in each case one of us was delayed by other demands and were forced to consolidate hours of topics into a few minutes. Realizing on attempt number three there would be minimal time to cover anything substantial, we deferred to having a call later in the week to cover business.
At the end of the day sometimes I stop and wonder how and why we have all gotten so darn busy?
All of us have become accustomed to filling up literally every minute of the day. While wanting and attempting to have real relationships, we settle for brevity covering family, politics, sports and religion in minutes; afterwards we act like we really know each other well. This pic of the back of a pickup I saw just this morning is a good laugh at how we communicate in as few words as possible, just like our conversations:
As our twenty-six hours of time together with my new Executive and VP friends; (we did have those conversations and thus were in tune to our family size and what they mean to us, where we live and used to live, our education and alma mater, favorite baseball and sports teams and players and more) I asked what their plans were after landing mid-afternoon? I mused that finally they could relax a bit. Everyone chuckled mockingly. They said the flight would allow them to debrief the past 26 hours of meetings for half the flight and the other half to prepare for no less than four more meetings each had scheduled back at the office.
Also on the calendar, which brought smiles to their faces, was the slot set to rush to the ball fields to catch soccer games with their kids. I was a little surprised when one of the Execs used that phrase the rest of us say so commonly, ‘but we are all fortunate to have jobs and a paycheck though, aren’t we?’ We all smiled and exchanged mutually respectful departure statements to one another.
I thought for a moment how similarly the time with my counterpart had expired. While we knew we needed to talk business, we did not want to miss the chance to talk about our personal lives. We knew seeing each other face to face would not happen again for a while and thus we opted instead to talk about our families and how each of us were doing. The brief thought brought some satisfaction to the departure of these Executives. All of us regardless of title were in the same boat paddling feverishly from one event to another, yet clinging to real life relationships that mean the most to us.
I watched them walk to their plane thinking about how well the time went. As soon as they were out of sight, without hesitation I hit the Google maps preset address button to head to the next meeting. Only this next ‘meeting’ was going to cover real brevity not of time, but of life…
(If this is your first time visiting Average Joe’s Portico, please read the Do you Dare tab to understand the shift, tap the red line before you read below and come on back ‘if you dare’)
Teach us to realize the brevity of life, so that we may grow in wisdom. Psalm 90:12 (NLT)
No eye was dry as we all broke pattern from the work day to join another counterpart and work friend of many years. With him was his wife and three other children. The question hung like a gray cloud in the air, Why would God allow their nine-year old son to leave them?
Sam was a beautiful young man whose pictures flashed across the screens in the large southern Baptist church. He loved his family, super heroes, people, and Jesus, they told us. Every picture showed his infectious grin splashing across the screens at both sides of the large stage.
From a personal level I had texted Tommy in the past months telling how we were all praying for his family and Sam We had a face to face discussion a while back similar to the ones I have on a periodic basis with my fellow long distance counterparts. Apparently many others had prayed as well, we were told by the preacher and Youth Pastor being given the honor to speak on Sam’s behalf. I felt as if Sam was a part of my local church and school as we had talked about him and the rest of Tommy’s family in the past. In reality though, just like those executive’s kids, I had sadly never met Sam. I and many of my other counterparts were there to let them know how much we truly cared, and I know everyone did.
For Sam, it seemed that he had defeated Leukemia, we were told. Why he got that horrible disease in the first place was unknown, but the fact that he was healed seemed to have happened based on messages sent earlier. Perhaps all the pain and suffering he and his family and church had gone thru was to bring glory to God through his healing. That is the story we all wanted to hear, wasn’t it? That is what would raise the eyebrows of the atheist’ and provide a great story of healing that would cause them to believe in God.
Instead we all sat feeling the pain of loss not only for our friend, but the kind that makes you pray you would never have to so closely experience their pain. I had film processing through my brain of my own family memories and those of my own children. I could so relate to them having lived through the near loss of one of our own and those miscarriages that saddens us still even decades later. But no, that would be selfish of me to think of myself at this time, this was for Sam, and Tommy and his family. I tried to blot out my own situations and focus on my friend instead.
The Preacher preached as a Baptist would. I prayed for those who he talked about who have lived a life without Jesus. For sure they needed to hear about the brevity of life and how all will die some day. He shared how Sam wanted everyone to have a Bible and wanted for everyone to know Jesus and be saved. We all, he said, must be born again and choose Jesus lest we face that sudden end, whether we are 9 or 99, and we were not in a position of being right with God. I silently prayed for those who I know undoubtedly needed to hear the message, while the thoughts of life being brief filtered through our every crevice and crack. We must all be right with God I agreed.
He continued on and reasoned that God did not create evil. He reasoned that Gods ways are not our ways. Some day we will get to meet Him face to face to see exactly why in this case He allowed Sam to enter heaven and be with Jesus now rather than later. He reasoned that perhaps his passing was a call to wake up for some. He said that prayers for healing were perhaps met with a no, but assured us that prayers for comfort for Sam’s family though were being answered.
He assured us their thoughts were strongly being filled with the knowledge that some day they will all be together again. I glanced at Tommy across the way and could see him nodding in agreement. Thankfully all of them know Jesus and accepted His sacrifice, which came via death on a cross, and they will escape the hell that those who do not accept, will have to face some day.
He also spoke about how Sam in only nine years time had influenced thousands of people because of his faith and openly sharing that faith with others. He did more in his brief time on earth than most will do in a lifetime. We can look at Sam’s life and model his child-like faith and care for others and use that as motivation in our lives.
I agreed with all that he had to say.
The brevity of life was described by James (Jesus earthly brother) stating our lives ‘are but a vapor’. We should be glad we had a life to live yesterday and should live it for God to bring Him glory in all that we do. We should be thankful if we live another day (similar to having a job and a paycheck) as each day is valuable and our time short. As he wrote it in James 4
13 Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to such and such a city, and spend a year there and engage in business and make a profit.” 14 Yet you do not know what your life will be like tomorrow. You are just a vapor that appears for a little while and then vanishes away.’ James 4:13-15 (NASB)
But all of that is not what I myself really wanted to hear as we sang Sam’s (and mine and many others) favorite song. You’re a good, good, Father , that’s who you are, that’s who you are.
While I agreed wholeheartedly with the Preachers excellent message, in my own heart I wanted to hear that God really cared, beyond words and even beyond the overwhelming people support Tommy’s family received from the many who came out to mourn with them.
No doubt, God does care. As the service was ending and young Sam was rolled out I could hear, see, and feel God whispering His soft presence in the most brief verse in the whole Bible; John 11:35 – “JESUS WEPT”.
After Jesus best friend had passed away and his dearest friends Martha and Mary grieved it said in the briefest of words, Jesus cried. It was never God’s intent for us to feel pain and feel the results of evil. In the garden of Eden He set up on earth what it was like in heaven. Only He had made us like Him with a mind to think and be free. Free to choose as we wish. Only man has made the choice that sent us away from the garden and away from God. Those choices created what made Jesus cry, death.
I sat and knew then, God knows exactly what we feel. He does care as He lived on earth once just as we all have in this one brief life to live on earth. And while all the Preacher said was true, most prevalent is how He wants to have a relationship with all of us that is real. In the good and the bad we face, He is there caring.
I believe He also gives us one-to-one understanding in the most difficult situations and in every situation we encounter daily (even while working). He experienced life and death himself. He does not desire for us to flounder, and although life’s brevity is filled with sorrow and pain at times, compared to where we who believe will end up forever, it is truly brief. Right now as I edit this non-brief heart releasing story, I know He is with me. He always is with me and He wants me and you to know, He cares.
” Despite the fact that our outer humanity is falling apart and decaying, our inner humanity is breathing in new life every day. You see, the short-lived pains of this life are creating for us an eternal glory that does not compare to anything we know here. So we do not set our sights on the things we can see with our eyes. All of that is fleeting; it will eventually fade away. Instead, we focus on the things we cannot see, which live on and on (forever).
2 Corinthians 4:16-18 (The Voice)