Monday, April 10, 2006
I have a secret to share. Sometimes, in the midst of my middle-aged life, I actually yearn to become completely irresponsible, to run away from the drudgery of everyday life, to sail off to some lightly populated tropical paradise island. I would burn my loafers in a fire on the beach whilst sipping a mai tai at sunset, and spend the rest of my days in flip flops. A castaway from society and civilization. Maybe this is why I like Hawaiian shirts, and I have an irreverent attraction (for a relatively well-behaved Christian fellow) to Jimmy Buffet.
One of my favorite Buffet tunes: From "Take Another Road"
Take another road to a hiding place
Disappear without a trace
Take another road in another time
Like a novel from the five and dime
Take another road in another time
Last Wednesday night, I met a real life Jimmy Buffet. His name was even Jim. Jim (pictured here piloting his house boat on Lake Ponchartrain) has had quite a life. He was born and raised in St. Louis, and left home to make his way in the maritime insurance business in New Orleans about forty years ago or so. He formed his own company, and even had a partner in London. Life was good, and so was business. Very good. Three kids, a wife, a house in a great neighborhood, and a nice bank account. After a time, he and his London partner had a parting in ways, and Jim left the insurance business. He then started a printing business in New Orleans, confident that he could start over with something new and challenging in mid-career. However, after a while, this new business was bleeding red ink, and draining Jim’s saving account.
His children had left home and started on lives of their own, and his relationship with his wife of 33 years ended; she left Jim, telling him it was time to move on. Jim was adrift. He soon met another woman, married, and thought life might repair itself, sort of like open wounds do, sometimes. But, after a short time, Wife Number Two told Jim she could not “stay in this married condition, I need to be on my own”. This is where the Jimmy Buffet part begins.
As a means of coping, Jim decided to sail away, literally. He took his sailboat (a residual from his better financial days, and about all he had left) and sailed around the Caribbean and up the East Coast of the US for more than a year. He had a stint as a pleasure boat captain in Florida. Another road, in another time.
We sat in Deenies Seafood (yum!) restaurant last Wednesday in New Orleans and listened to Jim’s story. I then asked Jim (the comfortable suburbanite that I am) “So do you regret at all this “Jimmy Buffet” phase of your life, this time of running away”. I thought I knew the answer. But Jim looked me square in the eye and said, “Not a bit! I needed that time to run away, my life was cratering all around me, and I needed to get away for my own mental health.” “So why did you ever come back home?” I asked. Jim’s reply still rings in my ears. “I came home here to New Orleans because I missed my friends, my children, my grandchildren, and my church”. His church?
It seems that over the years, Jesus has been doing a redemptive work in Jim’s life. His job now, in his late 60s, is as a staff member of a church in New Orleans. His job: to help transform the old model of committees in the church, in order to create a team environment that will effective care for people in the years to come. I love this.
From Jimmy Buffet to Almost Reverend Jim, all by the grace of Christ.
I will not sell my Hawaiian shirts, and my flip flops remain ready for summer. Redemption still occurs, often in unusual ways.
Posted by Steve at 9:38 PM