Some people always have a hilariously funny story about stuff that happens to them. One such person is Phil Johnson. I read his blog and noticed a story about my beloved pastor Adrian Rogers. Although it’s funny from Phil’s perspective, it really illustrates the graciousness of Adrian Rogers. I laughed till I cried and then cried some more when I thought about Pastor Rogers.
I want to say something about the passing of Adrian Rogers. I had the highest respect for him, a great love for his preaching ministry, and a special appreciation for the courage and diligence he showed in resisting the erosion of confidence in the Scriptures in some SBC circles.
I also made a short personal connection with Dr. Rogers once.
This happened while I was working as acquisitions editor for Moody Press in 1982. I was still in my 20s, but my job at Moody gave me access to a number of well-known preachers and authors. Moody Press sent me to the ICBI convention in San Diego that year, because every major Moody Press author (as well as every person we ever dreamed of recruiting to be a Moody Press author) was there. My assignment was to get to know as many of them as possible and find out what they were interested in writing. (That conference was where I really got to know John MacArthur for the first time.)
Anyway, one morning during the conference, I had breakfast scheduled with Adrian Rogers. Just the two of us. To talk about books. I was in awe. It was hard not to be. Of course, his voice was the deepest, richest, most mellifluous voice ever. In person, he had the presence to match. He was poised, elegant, refined—the very picture of dignity. And he seemed genuinely interested in talking to me about writing.
I ordered grapefruit. I had so many restaurant-meetings lined up for three days solid that I would have preferred not to eat at all, but he was having breakfast, and it would have been impolite to sit there and do nothing besides talk business while watching him eat.
This was a pretty good grapefruit, with only a few seeds, and small ones. But about halfway through my grapefruit, at a point in the conversation where he was laying out a really interesting book idea, I took a bite of grapefruit that turned out to have a seed in it. If I were at home with Darlene, I would just get up, walk over, and spit the seed directly into the bin. (Or else take aim and spit the seed across the kitchen in the general direction of the bin.) But in this classy hotel restaurant with fabric napkins and fine silverware, sitting across a small table from Dr. Rogers, I wanted to be as well-mannered as possible.
In retrospect, it would have been wise simply to swallow the seed. What I tried to do was quietly, discreetly, put the spoon to my mouth, deposit the seed there, and then silently put it back on the edge of my plate. But this was a really sticky seed, and I couldn't get it off my lip. I tried to blow it softly onto the spoon, but it didn't budge. So I blew harder.
Much too hard, actually. The maneuver launched the seed, which bounced off my spoon, arced across the table, and stuck fast to Adrian Rogers' lapel. His dark blue tailored suit was now decorated with a rather conspicuous grapefruit seed.
Worse, he didn't seem to see it happen. He kept talking to me without missing a beat, as if the whole thing had utterly escaped his notice.
I quickly realized I was no longer hearing him. My attention was fixed on the grapefruit seed, which sat there like a large, grinning lapel pin—getting bigger the more I looked at it. I couldn't decide whether to mention it to him or let him start his day with a seed from my breakfast clinging to his suit, waiting until someone else pointed out to him that it was there. In every scenario I could imagine, he would be embarrassed to discover the grapefruit seed hanging from his lapel, and of course, he would immediately know where it must've come from.
But after a 90-second eternity, during a moment when he thought I had looked down at my note pad, he quickly flicked his wrist and brushed it off. He knew it was there all the time, but he said nothing about it, I presume because he was too gracious to embarrass me.
From that day on, every time I ever saw him or heard his voice on the radio, I have remembered the grapefruit-seed incident; his classy, gentle compassion; and the care he took not to notice my disastrous lapse of etiquette.
I know he was beloved by his people, and I completely understand why. He'll be missed.
I was laughing so hard when I got to the end I had to re-read the section about Dr. Rogers graciousness because my eyes were watering with laughter by the time I got there. The italics above are mine because I wanted you not to miss the part about Dr. Rogers’ graciousness.