I seem to write best when something is stuck in my craw. It’s not because I’m angry at what was said or who said it…it’s just that I wish I could have processed what I was thinking quick enough to articulate it. Well something has been stuck in my craw for a while.

A friend stopped by one day and I told him about the transition I was sensing concerning the coffee shop. He was a bit surprised that I wanted to sell because every time he’s here it’s busy. I tried to explain to him that I was feeling pulled toward speaking and consulting more. It was becoming a good conversation. Then I told him I’d really like someone to buy the shop “that would allow me to work a day or two a week to maintain my contacts.” His next comment didn’t set right with me and has become that which is stuck in my craw.

“Why would you do that…since you don’t need the contacts anymore?”

My friend didn’t mean anything malicious by that. He isn’t heartless or cold. His comment triggered memories of other conversations I’ve been involved in and it revealed how we can tend to think about people. There is a temptation for all leaders, myself included, to see people as replaceable parts in a machine. As if people are for our purposes whatever those purposes may be. When that seed takes root, no matter how subtle, we begin to farm a school of thought that is neither kind nor Christlike.

Now that I’ve had time to think about it, this is what I wish I would have said:

“Oh I do need the contacts!” Not to build my enterprise. Not to grow my church. Not to be interchangeable cogs in whatever machine I’m putting together. I need the contacts to keep me connected to the reality of my community. I need contact with normal people who I have no positional authority over. I need contacts who to keep me human. I need the contacts to remind me daily that God’s thumbprint is on everyone.

A while back Eugene Peterson wrote a book entitled, Under the Unpredictable Plant. It’s the story of Jonah. His premise is that God doesn’t just place us somewhere to be agents of holiness in other people’s lives. He asks us to serve in places where others can be agents of holiness in our lives. That’s why I need the contacts. I think we all do.