Conversation with a Banker

The president of a large bank in San Francisco called me and said he was encouraged to meet me by a mutual friend. The name he mentioned was a very close friend, so I was eager to know this gentleman. After a few minutes of small talk, we discovered that we had several other friends in common. One was on his board and was his weekly golfing buddy. Seeming to have an instant rapport, we began to check our calendars to see when we could meet. He and I were both motivated, so we were able to set a date within a week.

Our first meeting is all I’m going to describe, but it was rather unusual, so I wanted to add it to my growing list of “Memorable Conversations.” I will refrain from giving any hint of whom I’m talking about to avoid breaching the confidential nature of our conversation. After the initial get acquainted necessities were out the way; I asked him why he and our mutual friend thought we should meet. It took a little time and patience, but the following is the bottom line of what I learned.

Some months earlier, he had contracted with a firm that specialized in team building. This firm spent three months meeting with people at the main office as well as all the branches. He had special one-on-one meetings with the president of the company, and after a month or two, they had become quite friendly. Eventually, this man told him that to fulfill his potential as a leader he had to discover his true self. That meant he had to operate out of his spiritual center. I will stop there, but you will understand where that led by knowing the following. It’s reported that last year major corporations spent four billion dollars on team building exercises, which range from the ropes course to classroom lectures. Many of these companies are based on New Age philosophy, and this is what my new friend had brought into his bank. The turning point for him was when the head of the company tried to convince him that at the center of his being was divinity. He didn’t have a spiritual background, but that sounded weird to him, so he rejected the premise and terminated the contract. Upon hearing this story, our mutual friend had strongly encouraged him to meet with me.

After understanding why he wanted to meet, I was very interested to know more about him, so I asked him to tell me a bit about his background. Like most men he was reticent to talk about himself; I had to ask questions to learn the following. I will sum up about thirty minutes of our dialogue. He had a Harvard MBA, was president of a highly successful bank, made more money than he ever thought he would make, was married to a beautiful woman, had four children, lived in Marin County, belonged to the top clubs in the city, etc. Mind you; he did not volunteer all that easily; it took a series of questions. His recent experience plus some things that our mutual friend had told me caused me to think that he was searching for something. He wasn’t able to frame the question, “Is that all there is?” but in my opinion, that is what I was hearing.

I said, “Let me run an idea by you and see what you think about it. It sounds like you might be going through what many people call a ‘mid-life crisis.’ I don’t care for that term and don’t think it’s helpful; I like the term ‘mid-life evaluation’ better. You can have a crisis if you make some dumb decisions while going through it, but it can also be a very positive time in life, and I know that personally because I’ve been through it twice. You look back at your life experiences, what you’re good at, and what you don’t want to repeat. Then you look forward and think, ‘How many good years do I have left? To maximize and get the most out of those years, do I need to make any changes?’ A jet airplane that’s off course one degree for an hour is a long way off course, but not as much as it would be if it continued one degree off course. Life can be like that, so ‘mid-life course correction’ is in order from time to time. Does that sound like what you’re thinking?”

He quickly said, “Yes,” so I offered to spend some regular time with him and help him process his “mid-life evaluation.” He said, “I would like that, how much do you charge?” I responded by saying, “I was offering to meet as a friend, and friends don’t charge friends.” He was incredulous and said that he would have to pay me. However, when I was unwavering in the offer of friendship, he finally relented. We got our calendars out and finally found a mutually agreeable date. After we settled on a date, he wanted me to meet his executive assistant for future appointments. After she left, we chatted for a few more minutes and then said goodbye. As I was opening his door to leave, I heard a very harsh voice say, “I don’t want to talk about God or none of that —-.”

Frankly, I was shocked at how strong his statement was, but I turned around, went back, and sat down. I said, “That would not be my purpose in being your friend, but now that you have brought it up let me be candid about who I am. Let’s say that your new friend was Tiger Woods rather than me. Do you think you could become his good friend, and he would never utter the word golf in your presence? That would be impossible because golf is central to his life.” I looked him straight in the eye and said, “Jesus is central to my life, so it would not be possible for us to be friends without you knowing that. You would probably also learn that I have six grandkids and nine great-grandkids, that I love barbecue and have a passion for golf. However, our friendship wouldn’t require you to love everything that I love. In fact, I would learn a lot of those things about you as well.”

He answered, “Under those circumstances that would be all right.” That first meeting went so well that we continue to meet. Now every time we meet, he is the one who wants to talk about God. I think his encounter with a New Age guru caused him to do some soul searching.

This was not the first time I’ve seen God use experiences like that. Another man I meet with had a short conversation with one of those religious groups that knock on your door. That caused him to ask me questions about them, which gave me the opportunity to fully explain the gospel to him. He is now following Jesus.