The Gospel According to Luke (T.)

(Flickr: Swamibu)
When do butterflies land on you? (Flickr: Swamibu)

I met Luke T. on a plane at the end of a very rough day. We started talking when he asked me, “So what do you do, in this world?”

Luke T. is one of those people who has one of those auras. You know the kind. And by some gift of serendipity, Luke T. and I had a conversation that couldn’t have come at a better time, for either of us.

Partially because we covered so many topics, and partially because I had so much fun with my latest “copy cat” post here on floWord, and especially because Luke T.’s way of observing the world was so fascinating and endearingly prophet-like, I thought I’d try to honor our conversation by sharing a recap somewhat in the style of Kahlil Gibran’s The Prophet. What follows isn’t exactly how our conversation went, but it’s close.

Here goes:

Luke T. is a young man. The night we met he had recently finished a stint in LA making music with a touring band and doing some modeling here and there. Now he was on his way to accept a full-time job teaching music to children at a church back in his hometown in North Dakota. It was either that or work as a wrangler and carpenter on a ranch in Arizona for a while. It had been a long time since Luke T. lived in North Dakota, and he wasn’t sure he’d made the right choice.

Then I said, “Luke T., speak to me of choice.”

And he answered, “When we make a choice, it’s not scary because of what we’re opting for. What we fear is what our choice forces us to ignore. We fear the fact that we can’t choose it all.” I told him one of my favorite nuggets from etymology: the verb “decide” comes from the Latin decidere, to cut off.

I said, “Luke T., speak to me of the opposite of choice—ambivalence.”

And he answered, “I was having a hard time deciding what to do with my life for this next stage. Then I realized, what am I afraid of? Am I afraid of losing the paltry nothing in my hand?”

Then I said, “Luke T., speak to me of settling down.

And he answered, “I am a wanderer. It’s hard to catch a wanderer’s heart, because if I see something shiny over there, I want to go over there. A wanderer lives with the fear that being in one place will mean he will live less, somehow—less significantly.” He said, “Think of it this way: you can only go surfing in the Pacific Ocean for the first time, one time.”

He added, “But any time you are living out of fear, that’s the wrong way.”

“It’s like this: picture butterflies. If I stay still, butterflies will come and land on me. If I get up to run away toward that shiny thing over there, I’m going to crush the butterflies, or they’re going to fly away. Being still is the only way to get to know the butterflies.”

Then I said, “Luke T., speak to me of religion.”

And he answered, “It’s too bad it’s not cool to be a smart young person with an interest in religion unless you’re a Buddhist.”

Then I said, “Luke T., speak to me of creativity.”

And he answered, “For me, the imago dei is God as creator. And if we define God as creator, then we are nearest God when we create. Creation is full of flaws—but God created, anyway. That’s the model. We must have the courage to create, even though our creation will always be imperfect.”

He said, “Like Corinthians: ‘For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.’”

Then he threw back his head and smiled and said, “Ah, I love you, God. For creating!”

And I said, “Luke T., speak to me of manhood.”

And Luke T. answered, “A few years ago I was working for an old-timer farmer back in North Dakota. I asked him, ‘What is the definition of a man?’ The farmer was a quiet man and was not used to such questions. He was silent and walked away. After ten minutes he approached me and said, ‘A man finds problems and fixes them.’”

He said, “I am still closing in on my idea of manhood, but my working definition is this: a man is the one who follows through on his word.”

Then I said, “Luke T., speak to me of sexuality.”

And he answered, “This might sound old-fashioned. Maybe my theory isn’t just right, yet, but women’s sexuality has been cheapened, and that is wrong. A woman’s sexuality is a beautiful treasure. It must be earned.”

When we landed we saw a toddler with a bouquet of flowers waiting to meet her mom at baggage claim. I said, “Luke T., speak to me of babies.”

And he answered, “Awwwh, biological clock!”

I said, “Whose biological clock are you talking about?”

And he answered, “My biological clock!”

Luke T., my favorite character in a long time: what else can I say about him? This is all true.

Last I heard, someone had given Luke T. a cabin to live in for free on the North Dakota prairie, provided he would do some carpentry work to fix it up.

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