Posted by Tyler Kirkpatrick | 7/1/2019
The premise of Jerry Seinfeld’s Netflix show Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee is, well, a couple of comedians… going for a car ride together… to get a cup of coffee. Couldn’t have figured that out based on the title…
Fortunately for the world, nobody every pitched the idea of a show called Pastors in Cars Getting Coffee, but last week myself, my wife Brittany and our new Ministry Associate/Youth Director Ty Whitman climbed into our Ford Escape to drive to Spokane for the Whitworth Ministry Summit (we actually didn’t get any coffee—but we did grab Burger King in Moses Lake, if that counts).
Both Brittany and I attended Whitworth (and Ty, for that matter, but he a bit more recently than we!), so we’ve made that five-hour trans-state drive on I-90 many times. I’ve shared that car ride with many different people: from family members (or people who would become family members through marriage), friends, and just acquaintances who were looking for a ride back to the west side after finals, and I was always struck by the range and depth of conversations that emerge in that drive, and the connection that develops or deepens with someone in that time. There’s a strange intimacy to five-hours of passing through miles of wheat fields together, apparently.
I wonder why that is.
Certainly, there’s the simple factor of time. It’s been said that if you want quality time with someone, it’s best to build in lots of quantity time. And not necessarily always intentional one-on-one activities, but just tons of time spent in proximity together. You can rarely plan on a deep conversations with someone. This is especially true, I think, with kids. In youth ministry, I found deep conversations with students happened far less in the “planned” times for that—small groups, one-on-one coffee, etc.—and far more often in the unexpected (and, admittedly, sometimes inconvenient!) moments of setting up for an event or game, or finishing writing up notes for a talk.
But it’s not the factor of time alone, it’s the safety of knowing that time is protected. On a five-hour car ride, you’re not worried about impinging on someone’s valuable time (“oh, sorry, you probably have to get back to work!”); you are both, essentially a captive audience. You can safely “open that can of worms” if you’re passing the exit to Ellensburg, knowing you have ample time to unpack it, because you still have a few hours to go until you get to Spokane.
So, short of road-tripping together across the state regularly, how can we as Christians foster spaces and places in our lives that facilitate deeper conversations and connections than Sunday morning coffee hour enables us? How can we be the sort of alternative community where people really know one another and are known by one another? One ancient practice that scripture gives us is Sabbath. It’s not something Western Christians take particularly seriously—and I’m often a chief offender. But if we truly set aside a day to God, a day for rest and a day for the community of faith, maybe we won’t be as impatient or bothered by someone imposing on “our” precious time to get things done. Brittany and I had the privilege to attend a Shabbat (Sabbath) dinner at a Rabbi’s house a few years ago. Throughout the evening, there was no underlying feeling that we were somehow imposing on their time because they didn’t have anything they “needed to get done.” By virtue of their convictions they were forbidden from getting anything done! We showed up at their house at 6:30pm… and left… close to midnight, but without the thought of “our” precious time being imposed upon, it really didn’t feel that long at all. It was just over five hours. Sort of like a car ride to Spokane.