Over the course of our lives we encounter so many different people. Some of them we will never meet and yet we will feel as if we know them. Some of them we will only know casually. A few we will come to know very well.
People enter our lives much like those entering from stage left or right in a theater production. Some will only walk through. Some will stay on center stage for a short time. A few will remain central to the story. How I get to know each one will be unique even as the entrance and exit of each will be different.
I will learn about each person through a variety of means. I may only read about them or read what they have written. Some I will only see in the movies, news clips, or on television or the stage. Others will meet me at crisis points in my life and yet I will recall them vividly. The few who are central I will come to know the best. I will hear their stories, spend time with them at any number of events, and watch them over time. How much and what I remember will vary.
No matter how I come to know someone, it is likely I will recall at least one of his or her signature moves. Esther Meek, a philosophy professor wrote about how we come to know others better. One of those is this:
“We attend to his or her ways, so that we can come to identify patterns – signature moves, I call them. What are distinctive, reliable, delightful ways that a person has of operating?”
Certainly those we know best and have observed the most are the ones whose signature moves are most familiar, but even those we have not met personally have a signature move we can recall.
I can think of many examples from people we have not met (and most will likely date me), but I will share only a few. If you grew up watching Carol Burnett on television, most of you will recall that she always pulled one ear lobe at the end of each show. What you may not know is that she started doing it when Carol first got a job on television and her grandmother asked her to say hello to her when she was on air. Carol explained she couldn’t do that, but she could find another way. That gentle tug of her ear lobe was a personal ‘hello’ to Carol’s grandmother, a unique signature move.
I recall patterns of signature moves of my parents who went to be with the Lord 22 years ago. One of my dad’s was how he would often use his right hand at the table as if he were wiping crumbs from the edge of the table after the plates were removed. It was almost an unconscious thing and sometimes my husband catches me doing it. I recall the way my mother rolled out pie dough and her own crimp along the edge of a pie plate.
Jesus had signature moves when He walked the earth.
An especially powerful example as what happened on the road to Emmaus with two of his disciples. Scripture tells us they were kept from recognizing Him, but two things, signature moves, demonstrated patterns that brought recognition to the disciples. The first was how their hearts burned within them when He shared of what had been written in the Old Testament about the Messiah. The second was when he broke bread and gave thanks when He shared a meal with them.
Of all the things we may know about a person, those patterns we have observed help us to identify them beyond a shadow of a doubt and allow us to be certain of who they are even if we have not seen them for a very long time. I wonder if that is one way we might know in heaven those who have been known to us on earth.
Patterns, signature moves, offer us so much to consider.
I especially love a quote by Esther Meek in “Reading the Bible…and Longing to Know”:
“Study God’s ways as the relationship unfolds, not so you can predict the future, but so that you will recognize God when He shows up. Expect to be surprised, but also expect, if you have attended to Him in love, to recognize Him. The Bible is the unfolding drama of the covenant relationship between God and his people. When you read it, you attend carefully so that you get to know God, so that you will know his signature moves, so that you will experience them in your own life.”