Selfie with the Colonel

The Tatura Guardian - - News - — Brian Spencer, Min­is­ter, Tatura Unit­ing Church

‘‘Do I know you?’’ he said. The young man in his mid-20s had just come down the stairs of the ho­tel when he saw me and my wife sit­ting fin­ish­ing our tea.

Sud­denly his face lit up in a mis­chievous grin as he turned to his mates and said: ‘‘It’s the Colonel!’’

It’s hap­pened to me be­fore, as I age and my hair has gone grey, I seem to re­sem­ble a few fa­mous peo­ple.

I of course am not fa­mous, but with glasses, longish grey hair and a goa­tee beard, I have been var­i­ously told that I look ‘‘just like’’ Pro­fes­sor David Suzuki, sci­ence broad­caster and en­vi­ron­men­tal ac­tivist; Rowan Wil­liams, the for­mer Arch­bishop of Can­ter­bury; and Colonel San­ders, founder of Ken­tucky Fried Chicken.

I don’t mind the as­so­ci­a­tions with Rowan Wil­liams or David Suzuki, but Colonel San­ders — not so much.

As we left the ho­tel, the four young men were stand­ing on the foot­path and when we passed by they again made jok­ing re­marks about the Colonel.

So as we passed them I said: ‘‘I’m off to see if I can find some de­cent fried chicken in this town.’’

They found this funny and one of the young men asked if he could take a selfie with the Colonel.

So arms around my shoul­ders, the four of them were grouped around me and took a selfie.

It was good na­tured, we all laughed and I went on my way.

I as­sume that my mo­ment of mis­taken fame now lives on, hav­ing been pub­lished on Face­book or In­sta­gram. ‘‘Do you know me?’’ he said. The man in his early 50s had come to the cel­lar door to taste our wines.

He and his three friends had been shar­ing a drink out­side and had been there for the best part of an hour.

He came inside alone to ask me his ques­tion.

I looked closely at his face, but I hadn’t any idea.

He pre­sum­ably knew me, why didn’t I know him? Was this an­other sign of old age? Un­be­known to me, in the time he had been here, he had seen my name on a busi­ness card, said to my son that he knew a Brian Spencer once, and worked out that it was in­deed me. So he had the up­per hand. I took the coward’s way out and re­sponded, ‘‘Your face is fa­mil­iar’’. At this he said his name. We looked at each other again. Smiles beamed.

It had been 35 years ago that I had last seen him.

I was the min­is­ter in the lit­tle town of Dare­ton, near Mildura.

He was a trou­bled teenager find­ing his way af­ter the sud­den death of his fa­ther.

We talked about those days, his mother and other mu­tual friends from all those years ago.

We talked about the paths life had taken us down in the years since. Then he hugged me. A long and strong hug that spoke of things far be­yond the pleas­antries.

Epiphany is di­vine dis­clo­sure — an ‘‘a-ha!’’ mo­ment when the whole frame of ref­er­ence shifts and we see some­thing we couldn’t see be­fore that changes the terms of ev­ery­thing else.

Some­times when I’m strug­gling with a sit­u­a­tion I don’t quite un­der­stand, I’ll say to my­self, ‘‘I won­der what God is up to here’’.

I try to prac­tice ex­pect­ing God to show him­self in the quirky, messy events that don’t make sense.

When pre­par­ing his dis­ci­ples to be ready for his on­go­ing self-rev­e­la­tion, Je­sus makes two prom­ises to his fol­low­ers: He as­sures them that ‘‘The king­dom of God is among you,’’ and he com­forts them with the prom­ise, ‘‘Be­hold, I am with you al­ways’’. I think he ap­peared at my cel­lar door. This is the gospel, and it’s good news.

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