David Tennant and Saying Goodbye

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Photo by marc thiele on Flickr’s creative commons

Ten years ago, I thought it would mean everything to see my favorite voice actors on a stage from a distance and in an autograph line for a moment. But that didn’t mean everything. The greatest gift came when they gave their time in hotel lobbies and conference rooms, letting us witness their own reunions with each other, and inviting us into their lives.

And if you know my story with Adventures in Odyssey, you know how the gifts kept piling up: gifts of time, of words, of moments, of remembrance, with these very same voice actors, and with others who work with them, others who love them.

June 17, 2018, wasn’t August 16, 2008, but then again, it couldn’t be.

Other than those Adventures in Odyssey actors, there was never really anyone famous I wanted to meet. Well, there was one. If he ever came to town, I knew I would pull out all the stops to be there, but it was a dream I didn’t think would come true. But then he did, and so did I.

It meant the world to me to meet David Tennant at Denver Comic Con. He is every bit as lovely and generous with his fans as I hoped he would be. I stood at the front of the second overflow line for twenty minutes, which meant I had a clear view of him shaking hands with people and listening and signing bits of cloth and paper. And I saw the looks on those people’s faces when they walked away. It was beautiful to see his commitment to being fully present to hundreds of people, even though he would never see them again.

Memories are still beautiful even if only one person will remember them, but they are also bittersweet.

Celebrity is a strange thing. How much we will pay for 10 seconds of conversation, or a greeting and a flashbulb that gives us a glossy photo to pin to the wall. How much I paid for these things, and how I kept grasping for ways to be remembered: a clever word, spoken; a hundred words, written and given.

But there was not enough time, or words, or moments, or remembrance. This is how it is. But I still couldn’t help repeating our conversation to everyone who would listen, in hopes that I would remember every word. And I can’t help the tears in my eyes now.

It’s only natural to want to meet someone whose work has made its mark on us, whose art has tapped into something deep inside of us, or even someone whose life seems to overflow with goodness. We feel like we know them, and we want to meet them and tell them why we are different people because of them, but we have only seconds, and we are not fully ourselves for even those seconds, because we are weighing every word, we are starstruck, we can’t believe it’s really happening.

There’s not enough time, I thought while driving home, in the throws of an emotional hangover. There’s not enough time. And then I realized that I wasn’t thinking about my favorite actor anymore.

I am saying goodbyes now, as I prepare to move to New York in a few days, but I am in denial. I am giving a clever word, spoken; I am giving a hundred words, written. These are the words that matter most. David Tennant is a wonderful person, I’m sure, but he has people who are actually in his life to tell him this. He doesn’t need my card, even if it does encourage him. He doesn’t need my wit, even if it does amuse him.

But the time, the words, the moments, the remembrance, matters so much more when they are shared, when they are building a house for both parties. When we can be fully ourselves. When it is up to us to speak life into the person across from us, because they are our loved one, or because they are one who needs love, or both.

I treasure the memories of those flashy days, those once-in-a-lifetime handshakes, but they aren’t the only beginnings to celebrate. I most want to remember the beginnings that led to middles of new faces becoming familiar and small talk lengthening and days turning into nights and all the while we are together still.

There’s not enough time.

June 17, 2018, wasn’t August 16, 2008, and neither of those days was the one when I drove to the northernmost reaches of Denver to attend a meet-up group, or the one when I was one of two people to bring strategy games to a party-game gathering, or the one when I braved the snow to visit the nearest house church. But then again, they couldn’t be.

(speak the truth) IN LOVE

a gift in hand
photo by asenat29 on creative commons (flickr)

I want you to receive this. I’m holding a truth, an oh-so-delicate, important truth, and it’s for you. I know you need it, but you don’t see it, and we’re so different, and I know instinctively that the way I give it to you matters.

Once I let go of it, there’s nothing more I can do. If I do it right, you’ll be looking at the truth in your hands, and it will look to you the same way it looks to me, and you will understand, and you will set it somewhere, somewhere in your mind. And it may only change things one-tenth of a degree, but when you mix in time and life and that one truth and other truths you accumulate, that one-tenth-of-a-degree might blossom into something beautiful neither of us expected. Or maybe it won’t. But that part’s not up to me. All I can do is share with you what I see, and share it in a way you can receive.

Stop.

Stop right there.

Those two paragraphs up there, they were what I originally wanted to arrange this entire blog post around. A day and a half ago, that was my plan, and it seemed so right, and I couldn’t wait to share with you what I’d learned about being pastoral, and learning to speak someone else’s language, and words and messages and truth and receiving.

It wasn’t a bad idea, and I value what I’ve learned on the subject, which is why I left those two paragraphs in.

But sometime last night, I was praying, and there was a shift.

Please, God, help me love this person more. And even in my exhaustion, I sensed the shift, the light bulb: What enables me to speak words of life isn’t strategies and plans and good delivery; it’s love. (And how can I write about strategies and how-to’s when I can write about love?)

Oh, maybe my advice will be long-winded, and I’ll have to search long and hard for the right words, and I won’t even find the best ones. But even if this happens every time, it won’t matter because I love you and you’ll see that I love you and all the strategies in the world can’t hold a candle to that.

Yes, yes, speak the truth in love. But start with love. Always, always, start with love, and then think about the how. 1 Corinthians 13:1 says it best: “If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal.” Go ahead and reread the rest of that chapter, even if you’ve read it many times before.

When I want to help, the best thing I can do is love. Maybe words will come out of that love, or maybe it will be a silent mouth and busy hands instead, or simply an I’m-with-you smile.

Let love replace worry, let love replace the fix-it tendencies, let love replace the desire to control. I can’t change anyone; I can only love.

And if you feel like the love is lacking, pray for more love. And if you feel like the love is strong, pray for more love. We always need more love.