I saw Jim (name has been changed) yesterday for the first time, yet it's not the first time that I've "met" him. You see, Jim used to be my favorite radio personnel on our local Christian radio station. A few years ago he left the station and moved on to a Christian organization nearby and that was the last I had heard about him.
I knew he lived in my small town though, and I always wondered if I would get to meet Jim. He was always full of such joy, such passion for God and his family, and I just always imagined him with a twinkle in his eye and a spring in his step. He was radiating HAPPY through the radio waves.
Two years ago when Malia started Kindergarten I recognized his son's name on the class list for the other Kindergarten class. I thought surely I would see him at some sort of school function. I may not have ever seen him in person before, but I was confident I would recognize his voice if I heard him speak.
But to my knowledge, I never ran into him.
And then this year as Malia entered Grade 2, I discovered that his son was now right in Malia's class! Surely I would now get to meet this person who had such a positive impact on me while he was working at the station. But month after month passed - and a few school functions - and nope, never saw him. I did run into his wife though (whose name I also recognized from the many times he gushed about his wonderful bride) and thought it odd that Jim wasn't ever accompanying her.
Well, yesterday was the day when I finally saw Jim in person (at Malia's student-led conference after school).
And when I did, my heart broke into about a million pieces.
I had already been waiting out in the hall with Jim's wife and son when I saw Jim walking down the corridor towards us. He had a baby in his arms...and a beautiful young woman at his side.
And Jim's wife waved hello to them with a wedding ring-less hand...
This is not the Jim that I "knew." This is not the Jim that shouted God's presence from the rooftops. His eyes were hard and full of sadness. There was no twinkle in his eyes; no spring in his steps. And his voice? I wouldn't have recognized it anywhere. No longer upbeat and full of joy, his voice sounded tired and almost hopeless.
I always imagined Jim would be personable and bubbly - the way he was on the radio waves. But the Jim in real life - at least today's version of Jim - was withdrawn and quiet.
And it made me wonder...what happened to Jim? What made him lose his zest for life? His zest for God? Now, certainly from our brief meeting (where we didn't even actually speak to one another) I am in no position to judge what his relationship with God is like. But I do know that Jim today is a very different man than he was a few years ago when I "knew" him from the radio.
And it makes me hurt for him...for his wife...and for the 2 children that they have together. It makes me hurt for his new baby...and even for the new woman in his life (who also did not appear to be wearing a wedding ring).
I probably will never know what happened to change him so much. But I can pray. And so I will. I will get on my knees and I will pray...for a man named Jim.