Years ago, and I mean years ago, one of our Young Life kids came back from his work crew experience. He had served for a month at one of our properties. I thought it would be nice if his fellow classmates and I took him to Izzy’s pizza for a debrief. What happened that day was way, way better.
P.J. worked at Izzy’s. I didn’t know P.J. personally, but certainly recognized that he was going to be a senior in high school in a month as were the 8 guys gathered around the table to listen to Joe’s work crew experience. As the lunch went on, P.J. would refresh our waters, acquire some parmesan cheese, as well as, extra napkins.
Over the course of the lunch, there was some great sharing. It wasn’t just about Joe, but he certainly teed up some great questions. The prayer at the beginning of the meal even seemed a bit longer and more heartfelt. These were going to be the backbone of my Young Life club this fall – 8 amazing senior guys that in my estimation could easily assist in seeing a room fill to 200.
Then, P.J. came by, and did something that was interesting.
As P.J. was pouring the waters, and listening to someone share a heartfelt tug on their heart from the Lord, P.J. smirked. I think I was the only one who saw it. After P.J. stepped away from the table I said, “Do you guys know P.J.?” They said they did, but not well. I said, “Well, he is laughing at you guys about something.” The next time P.J. came to the table, one of the guys asked the question. “P.J., are you laughing at us?” And here was the best lesson I could have ever dreamt up:
P.J. responded, “Yeah, I am laughing. It seems so funny to me to see you guys praying, sharing, and being supposedly religious over here. I have been in class with most of you, sat in the bleachers at games and pep assemblies, and walked the halls alongside of you since 7th grade. It’s funny to me because you all are the biggest hypocrites. I know how you live – and yeah, to me, this is funny – that’s all, just funny.”
P.J. walked away. The table was silent. At first, there was anger. Later, there was conviction. These guys had been in essence laid bare of how they were really perceived in the school.
I guess for me I have always remembered the day with P.J. I always assume, or try to remember, that anyone I encounter each day that I don’t even realize could be watching my life. The question that they can be asking, that is really the question as they watch from a distance is this:
- Is he or she for real?
- Are they living in congruence with what they say is important?
- Does the verbal and the actions match up?
The great story about the preacher in the taxi who got change for a $20 even though he only gave a $10 – he knew it immediately but didn’t say anything. He even got out of the taxi. He felt so convicted he tracked down the driver. The driver said as the man made it “right.” “I did that on purpose. I heard you speak last night and wanted to see if you were for real.”
Those 8 senior guys had great senior years. One of the reasons was that from that day forward they wanted to be “for real” believers.
Oh man, oh Lord, help me be real today.
“Be very careful, then, how you live–not as unwise but as wise…” Ephesians 5:15
PS Thank goodness for pizza and P.J.!