With a recent string of hot days, the apartment complex pool is hopping, and it’s the happening place to be on a hot summer afternoon. Luckily, the semester is over for me, and I’m wrapping up grading, which means, more pool time. Which also means, more time for reading at the poolside. Yes, life is rough.
A couple days ago, I planted myself on one of two available lounge chairs and was shortly joined by another neighbor, someone I’d never met before. The young woman kept an eye on her two energetic young girls while she caught up on some reading of her own.
I introduced myself and broached the common topic of books. She was holding a copy of The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, a book I’d read several years ago.
It turns out, she’s a bit of a reader herself and habitually has several books going at once. Sounds like my kind of person.
She asked what I was reading. Glancing down at the book in my hand, I paused a moment. This one was a little harder to explain than my common pool fare. I’d taken along a church recommended book that I was reading for my training process for women’s leadership.
“It’s called How People Change, and it’s book we’re reading at my church right now,” I told her, trying not to sound too churchy, but also trying not to sound ashamed of what I was reading.
“Oh, what’s it say, how do people change?” she asked.
“Great,” I thought. “Here’s a chance to talk about Jesus, and I’m very ill equipped at the moment.”
“Um, there’s this chart see…I stumbled, and pointed, and explained briefly the book’s point.” It was the worst book summary I’ve ever done.
Obviously, she wasn’t too impressed. I wouldn’t be either, with that introduction.
As we sat reading our respective books, I thought of all the brilliant ways I could have summarized its message, about Jesus, about his power to change us inside out. But, of course, I never said any of that.
After we’d both dipped in the pool and resumed our reading, she’d mentioned that she was reading her book to help her with some bad habits she was trying to break. “I just can’t get organized and get my act together. I’m trying to follow the steps in this book. I’m taking notes and making charts as I read.”
I nodded intently. I’ve done the same with self-help kind of books. That one in particular hadn’t rocked my world. In fact, I got pretty bored with it, but it seemed like she was getting something out of it.
However, I recognized that the book I was holding and the book she was holding were both addressing the exact same issues, just different approaches. Hers advocated strategies for a person to embrace to take charge of their life. Mine, it advocated turning to Christ, so he could take charge of our messed up life.
I wanted to tell her that if she really wanted to see change, it was only going to happen at the heart level. And the one person who specializes in that is Jesus. That’s the true way to get rid of those nasty habits you can never seem to shake.
But of course, I just sat there. Staring into the pool, watching her kids splash in the water.
Today seems like another good day for a swim. I’ll bring my book along, just in case another opportunity presents itself.