"Excuse me…. may I ask you a random question," I said, pushing through my introverted shell and interrupting the personal space of a complete stranger. "Is your name……?"
It was late morning last Thursday, and Robyn and I were in San Diego celebrating an eigth-month belated anniversary (20 years), enjoying a leisurely ride on two rented beach cruisers along the marina. It was nearing the end of our four-day stay, and we had plenty of time before us. We were supposed to catch a plane and return to Arizona later in the afternoon, but we extended the trip one more night; sometimes you know you need a little more of something, and this was one of those times. Now we weren't leaving till tomorrow.
Before breakfast, Robyn wanted me to read a chapter in Jesus, My Father, the CIA, and Me. It was all about the author's memoirs of his kids jumping off the high rocks into the natural pools, and his fear of his eight year old falling off the forty footer. But the eight year old got past his fear and jumped, and it was a turning point. So we talked about falling into something verses jumping into it, and how God probably likes it when we push through our fears and try jumping. We were also talking about being more consumed by God and caring less about clarity in life and the redundancy of always asking, "now what shall I do, and how, and where, and why……" We were finally settling into that place where you simply start wanting God himself more than his blessings, and it's enough…even more than enough.
So we ate French toast and went on a bike ride.
Soon we were riding past sleepy houses with dark green lawns and rose bushes. "Would you pick that house, or that one?" I asked Robyn as we meandered along the path. "That one," she said, playing along, and as we glanced up, we noticed a man walking down from his back deck to a white adirondack chair on the grass. We continued riding past but then stopped a few houses down. "Is that who I think it is?" I asked Robyn. "I don't know…what are the chances?" There was only one way to find out, and it required some jumping in. We got off our bikes and walked back.
Excuse me," I said. "Can I ask you a random question?"
"Sure," he said, leaning forward in his chair.
"Is your first name Bob?"
"Yes it is." I look over at Robyn, and she has that speechless smile.
"By chance is your last name Goff?"
"Yes, he said, smiling." I look again at Robyn, and we both know the crazy significance of this moment, so crazy because it began last July, ten months before this day, although we had no idea at the time.
"Um, could we take ten minutes of your time and tell you something truly amazing about this moment?" I ask, smiling in disbelief at what's transpiring.
"Sure, come on up. You guys have to try some of this humus. Let me grab you some water. I'll be right back."And there we are, sitting in chairs, holding bottled waters, chatting with Bob for ten minutes or so about Jesus, life, people. Sharing a few glimpses of our lives together in his back yard. Completely random. But not at all.
Because as cool as it was to meet Bob Goff (author of Love Does) and hang out in his back yard, something so much greater was happening. The kindness and tenderness of God was happening, and you could taste it.
On July 13, 2013, ten months prior to this, I was finishing Love Does. I was inspired to love and to act with a little more boldness, even audacity, after reading about Bob's life. My official 20 year wedding anniversary was just a month away, August 7. I wanted to surprise Robyn with something bigger than usual, even though she's not the kind of person that looks for that. So I wrote Bob Goff an email in July. I told him I enjoyed his book, that I thought we might be similar in our wiring, that we'd probably even hit it off if we hung out. And so I asked him if I could spend part of my 20 year anniversary next month with my wife and him at his home up in the Pacific Northwest, wherever he lived. If you've read Love Does, that's a fairly modest, unassuming request. I made it clear that I knew this was a long shot, that he is extremely busy, and that I probably wouldn't hear from him, and it was O.K. If anything, it was a good exercise for me to do something out of the ordinary, even if it's just writing a different kind of email.
The weeks and months passed. I never heard anything. My life took some unexpected and rather hard turns, and we kept delaying our anniversary celebration month after month till the following Spring.
So now it's May of 2014. We decided to go to San Diego for a few nights. Born and raised in familiar Southern California, it's not exactly an over-the-top destination, yet simply being together with uninterrupted time at the coast was ample, even abundant. We were going to unwind, unplug, replenish. Even if it was nine months postponed. I had long-forgotten about the email I had sent to Bob the previous July, the email where I asked if I could join with him for a bit as I celebrate my 20th. Ten months went by since I wrote it, and in ten minutes it was redeemed.
And then somewhere between a blink and three seconds the tenderness of God swept over me and through me as I set the bike down and walked back a few paces to the man on the back lawn. The email may have slipped past Bob, but it never left God's desk.
"Is your name Bob Goff?"
"Yes it is. Come on over and sit down…"