“Didn’t you used to be Guy Sayles?”
That’s what a fellow asked as I waited behind him in the checkout line at Ingles. When he realized what he’d said, he flushed red and apologized: “I’m so sorry. I meant, ‘Aren’t you Guy Sayles and didn’t you used to be pastor at First Baptist Church?’”
We had a good laugh. I said, “I did used to be Guy Sayles. Who did you used to be?”
I keep pondering his accidental question.
In September, Anita and I will have lived in Asheville for 17 years. My work at First Baptist Church of Asheville began two days before the September 11, 2001 terror attacks. So much has changed in our world since then.
In 2001, New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani was a healer and unifier, Donald Trump was a Democrat, and George W. Bush was president. Blockbuster was a thriving video rental business. No one had an iPhone (not until mid-2007). The first Harry Potter movie—“Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone”–was released in November. John Grisham’s novella Skipping Christmas was a bestseller. Tiger Woods won the Masters Golf Tournament, and the Arizona Diamondbacks were World Series Champions. The Dow Jones Average closed the year at 10,021.57.
So much has changed in me. Some of those changes are the inevitable physical ones. In 2001, I needed a barber. I was about two inches taller. I watched late-nigh comedy shows “live” instead of the next day, on YouTube. I hardly ever had to say, “I didn’t quite hear you. Would you mind repeating that?”
“Didn’t you used to be Guy Sayles?”
I did. In some ways, I still am. To paraphrase poet William Stafford, there are threads I follow: fascination with, and love for, Jesus; awareness that even the apparently strong are struggling; restless curiosity; wonder at the healing beauty of creation; joy in children and childlikeness; delight in the musicality of language; and dependence on grace and mercy.
In some ways, though, I’m not, and I’m thankful.
I’ve acknowledged, and I’m wrestling with the implications of, the privileges I was granted as a white, straight, and middle class male. I keep learning how intractably systemic racism, heterosexism, classism, and patriarchy are and how entanglingly implicated in them I am.
I’m increasingly convinced that fear is what drives us, sometimes to despair or disengagement, or destructiveness of self or others. We fear being abandoned, invisible, unknown, unaccepted, disrespected, and unloved.
I’ve learned that vulnerability is a gift, not a problem. As Leonard Cohen said, “There’s a crack in everything; that’s how the light gets in.”
I’ve had to face-off with failure, not just to reach a goal or complete a project, but the failure of my strength, ideals, and hopes.
I live in existential proximity to death, and its steady presence in my psyche is reordering my sense of what matters.
I know fewer things with certainty, but the things I do know matter more. Mainly I know that God really is as good and loving as Jesus said and showed and that nothing will finally separate us from divine love.
What matters more than who we were and more, even, than who we are, is who we’re becoming. I like the way Eugene Peterson renders 1 John 3:2: “We are children of God. And that’s only the beginning. Who knows how we’ll end up! What we know is that when Christ is openly revealed, we’ll see him—and in seeing him, become like him.”
Thank you for those musings, Guy…very uplifting!
Thank you, Melanie!
Thanks Guy for another great message on INTERSECTION!
Hope you are doing well.
My best to you and your family!
I think of you and wish you the very best!
Great to hear from you, Gayle, and thank you. All my best to you and yours as well.
Thanks for the gift of your writing here, Guy. It woke me up at the end of the week. Hope to see you soon.
Thank you so much, Gareth. I look forward to seeing you, too.
Wonderful post. I am grateful for the many things I’ve learned from you Guy. Thanks for being Guy Sayles!
Aileen, thank you for that kind and gracious comment! Hope you’re doing well and that you’re enjoying your new work.
You continue to inspire me with your humor, strength, joy and outlook on life. I wish you the very best as you enter this “new year” of your work and life.
Your dear friend in Christ.
So good to hear from you, Bob, and thank you for your gracious comments. All the best, grace, and peace to you.
Guy, Thanks once again for wise words and helping us keep focused on what really matters in this world of distractions.
Thank you, Keith. I’m glad to know that my own attempts to get refocused and stay focused are helpful to you.
Ron and I miss you. Thank you for keeping us on your list.
Thank you, Gail. My best to you and Ron.
Beautiful! Just beautiful ! I can’t believe how the timeline of our ministries are aligned – we moved to NH 36 days before 911. My first IBM business trip after we moved and got our 8 year old settled was in school booked on AA flight 11 that hit the World Trade tower. Three days before the flight, my VP called and informed me that there was a travel freeze with IBM corporate wide. I thought about making a case to seek an exception (it was only a $300 expense and I needed to meet with my employees in LA). I instead was relieved because I needed to bring stability to our daughter who was struggling with the move from GA.
I’ve been given a gift of 17 years with her and my husband.
Love your blog Guy. Take care of yourself my friend!
Ginger, thank you so much. Your story of 9-11 is incredible. And, what a wonderful gift that you have had those years that might not have been. I’m deeply glad for both of you. All the best to you. Grace and peace.
Guy, so glad we have reconnected. I have really enjoy your writing and the thoughts they provoke. You really have a way with the written word. I know those MJH teachers would be so proud. I auctually go to church with Pete McQueen, the principal and am in DAR with Gail East, counselor.
Thank you, Jeanine. I’m glad and grateful, too. Please tell Pete and Gail hello for me. Such good memories of the environment they, and others, created for us in junior high school.
Thanks Guy! I resonated with every word as I read your insightful reflections.
Thanks so much, Henry!
Thanks for this reflection, it resonated with me on several levels! I’d love to get together for breakfast or lunch sometime if your schedule permits, as I will be starting a sabbatical in September.
Michael, I sent a gmail about breakfast or lunch a week or so ago. Look forward to seeing you.
Guy, I agree that we are driven by fear, and all those you list resonate with me. Also there’s fear of who we are becoming, both individually and nationally. There’s fear of what will be the fate of those who will come after us. Perhaps the greatest of fears is fear of the unknown. It seems life’s struggle is the striving to overcome fear.
Thanks for all you do and are.
Bob, thank you so much for this gracious comment. I agree that we fear the unknown–and, especially, death which is both known and unknown to us. Best to you Guy