Saint John and the man in the corner

Nancy and I learned awhile ago that there are mall walking regulars, people who show up at the same time every day. There’s a small sense of community when you wave at the same people every morning.

The other day, Nancy and I got to the mall early. It was going to be a busy day. As expected, we saw a different group of people walked. And we saw Saint John, sitting in a corner of the food court.

IMG_0548We could barely see him, actually. We were on the upper level, and he was on the lower. He looked deep in conversation with someone.

When we came around for our second lap, we took the stairs down, to give a little more exercise. Mostly, I was curious. And as we walked toward the food court, I recognized the well-dressed business leader walking away.

He has a good reputation in town, but I didn’t expect to see him this early, at the mall, talking to someone as scruffy as Saint John.

John was walking, too. When he saw us, he stopped.

“Early morning counseling session?” I said, smiling.

“Not quite,” John said. “More of a story-telling session. People ask me questions about stuff they hear on the news or things they wonder about. I listen, and then I say, ‘Can I tell you something I heard from Jesus?'”

“And they listen?” I said. I’ve tried telling people what Jesus said. It almost never works.

“Of course they listen,” John said. “They started the conversation. And I don’t tell people what Jesus said as if I’m scolding. As I just told you, I say, ‘Can I tell you something I heard from Jesus?'”

“You said that to him?” I said, looking toward the man who had left.

“Of course. He was thinking about the loneliness that comes from having to know all the answers. And about the deep fear he has about failing everyone and being shamed. It’s why we met in a corner away from everyone. And I said, ‘Can I tell you something I heard from Jesus? He was talking to a man almost like you and said, ‘God didn’t send his son to condemn the world, but so that the world could be rescued through him.'”

“What did he say,” I asked.

“He said, ‘If that’s true, I’d give up trying to measure up. I’d quit.'” John smiled. “I told him, ‘that’s exactly what I did.'”


I wrote a book about Nehemiah. It fits almost perfectly under a tree or in a stocking. (A Great Work)