For all my well-documented idiosyncrasies, sustained out-loud talking to myself has not been one of them. That is, until Sunday morning, May 15th, in my Memphis hotel room. Just the evening before I'd had an outstanding time in the home of one of the host couples along with the pastor who'd brought me out to speak to his community. We laughed hard, felt safe to tell our stuff, and let each other in on our pasts, our pain, and how we came to a mutual interest in the truths of The Cure. We ate great b-b-que, which I spilled onto my shirt within three minutes of entering their home. Three minutes! If you've witnessed it, I wolf down food like a man in a perpetual waffle-eating contest, with my retirement savings as the ante. -Later, we sat on their backyard patio, in perfect weather, talking about everything and anything, with no pretense or pretend. When I travel to meet people I've never seen before, its always a wild gamble for me. I usually fear I will be a great dissapointment. Like they're expecting Jimmy Fallon and quickly discover they've booked Carrot Top's shy uncle. I have to remind myself over and over, "Just be yourself John. You don't have to impress anyone. They asked you to be here. Yes, you're less impressive in real life than you are on Facebook. But, still, try to be yourself. If it goes badly, you'll be out of here in less than a day." But as the evening went on, I didn't want my time with these six new friends to end. Real, authentic, vulnerable, God-comfortable, playful and funny is why I go out in public.
I awaken the next morning, 11 floors up in this delightful hotel, overlooking Memphis, and the church where I'll be speaking in less than two hours. And I'm just chatting it with myself. I don't notice it at first, but once I do, I'm all in. "Alright John, we should get up here in a bit." "Yes, we should. But I sure do love hotels. This bed is so much better than our bed at home. I should add an extra day onto these trips! Just saunter down into the lobby, around 9, in one of these bathrobes they provide. Maybe get some orange juice, an apple fritter and a newspaper. And just sit in the lobby, like a wealthy retired person." Then-"God, I don't know how much longer I get to do this. But I sure am grateful. Take care of me this morning. You always have. Let this be a gift to this church today. Let me stay in the moment and not miss it. Thanks." I'm dressed by now and searching through the bottom of a briefcase pocket for mint fragments. Then, as I stand in front of the mirror, I say to me, "Hey, maybe its the stripes, but you don't look that heavy in this shirt. Good call!" "Thanks. I think I'll leave it untucked. I look pretty cool for an old guy with neuropathy in his feet, wouldn't you say?" "Yes, you do my man. Yes you do!"
And then it struck me. Me talking to me has changed over the years. It used to be so critical, so riddled with blame. It rarely is now. I'm still a mess. I still can get nervous-like a ferret serving drinks at a python convention. But believing who God says I am as long as I have, it is healing my self voice. I like being with me, in hotels on the road, stuffing shampoos and soaps into my toiletries bag. I like who I hear talking to me. I like talking to God. He likes talking to me. And I like the sound of my voice comforting me, with the comfort that is from Christ Jesus. I actually have believed this stuff. ...Who knew?