If you follow me on Twitter @jonacuff, and really should because it’s a pretty delightful experience, you know that last Friday, Christian recording legend Michael W. Smith was on my flight to Denver. I was literally “going west young man” with Michael W. Smith.
He lives probably 6 minutes from me in Franklin, but I’ve never actually met him. I like to pretend I’m cool and not impressed by famous people, but I got really nervous when I saw him.
Because we were both on Southwest, I had a chance to sit in the row next to him. I actually asked an elderly woman on the aisle to stand up so that I could sit in the middle of the row across from him. She struggled to her feet, at which point I wussed out, told her to sit back down and took a seat two rows behind Michael W. Smith.
I had a copy of the Stuff Christians Like book in my bag and started to debate whether I should give it to him. I told the mom next to me what was going on and she started plotting too. Here are a few things that went through my head:
1. Is he asleep? I can’t tell if he’s asleep. His seat is reclined. Am I about to be the guy who wakes someone up on the plane?
2. Oh no, he’s wearing sunglasses. Even if I walk to the front of the plane, for a fake bathroom run just to do reconnaissance, I won’t be able to tell if he’s awake.
3. The lady next to me just offered that her 10-year-old could walk by him, bump him, and wake him up for me. Would it be weird if I took her up on that offer? That’s probably weird.
4. What if I hand him Stuff Christians Like, and he thinks it’s a mockery of Christianity, not a celebration of it? Do I have to craft the perfect sentence to explain the entire heart of the book and then deliver that sentence crouched in the aisle of an airplane at 30,000 feet?
5. I need to make sure to mention that “Zondervan” published the book. They also publish the Bible, he’ll definitely have heard of them and will be less likely to refuse the book.
6. Should I hand it to the lady in front of me and ask her to pass it up to him? Is that crazy?
7. The lady next to me’s son is crying because he’s afraid of flying. Should I send the crying kid to deliver the book? Nobody would refuse a book from a crying kid.
8. Am I the worst person on the planet for thinking about having a crying kid deliver my book? Definitely.
9. If this experience becomes a blog post, should I edit out that last part so that people think I’m a better person than I really am? Nope.
10. The lady next to me just offered to go up to him and say, “Are you Michael W. Smith? What are the chances! I just met the author Jon Acuff two rows behind you. He wrote a great book.” Would that work?
11. How great is this lady next to me?
12. Speaking of great, how great is it that Michael W. Smith is flying Southwest? Legit.
13. What if I hand him the book, and he leg sweeps me or punches me right in the breadbox. If he’s seated and I’m standing, would he have access to the breadbox?
14. Did the idea about “Always singing friends are friends forever on the last night of camp” make it into the Stuff Christians Like book? (Flip, flip, flip.) Nope.
15. What if I just started singing that instead? Would other people on the plane join in? Would that be awkward, or would I “find my place in this world?”
16. It would be better if I had a synthesizer with me. I wish I had a travel synthesizer with me. I bet I can get one in Sky Mall.
17. Why did I think of the breadbox? Isn’t that an old timey, vaudeville term for gut? Why is that word in my head?
18. Would it be better to give the book to the lady next to me? She asked where she could buy it. Should I give it to her? Celebrities are just people too. This lady is every bit as special as Michael W. Smith in God’s eyes.
19. Did I just Jesus Juke myself?
So what did I do?
After the stewardess took his drink order, I sprang from my seat like a slightly awkward panther.
I said something like “I just wanted to thank you for using the gifts God gave you so faithfully and so consistently. I wrote a book with Zondervan. It’s a satire of all the funny things we do within the context of Christianity and faith. I’d love to give you a copy. Thanks!”
And then I retreated to my seat. 3 feet away. He was super kind, incredibly gracious and the whole thing took about 14 seconds.
Here is what I thought next:
1. The lady next to me just said that he’s reading the book. Is he?
2. In a few minutes he’s going to start laughing so loud that the pilot is probably going to need to make an announcement asking him to quiet down.
3. We’ll probably become best friends by the end of this flight.
4. I wonder if he owns horses? I bet he owns horses. Man, it’s going to be so fun to ride horses with Michael W. Smith when we’re best friends.
5. He’s standing up and getting something out of the overhead compartment. Is he putting the book away ’cause he hated it? Or is he getting out some highlighters and a notebook so that he can really soak in the deep wisdom I’ve written? It’s definitely one of those two options.
6. I should write this down right now because it’s a great example of how crazy I am.
That’s the internal dialogue I experienced in approximately 11 minutes. And I wrote this post on the plane right after I gave him the book. When I share these kind of thoughts with my wife, she often says, “It must be exhausting to be you,” and it is.
But is that weird?
Have you ever bumped into a Christian celebrity?
If so, who?
If not, whom would you like to meet?