I woke up pretty early this morning with a plan.
Every Wednesday, I lead a boys' mentoring group at one of our local junior high schools. That begins at 8am. It finishes around 9:15am or so and I head to my office at church. I then have a 10:30am Bible study for senior adults each week. These are two highlights of my mid-week.
So, as is the case on Wednesdays often, I stopped at our local Dunkin' Donuts for a coffee and a French Cruller (an incredibly good donut that is low-calorie because there's so much air inside - well, that's my theory.) The employees see me coming and now, these two items are always waiting. I'm a creature of habit. One of these days, I'm going to mess with them and get a frosted donut. It'll blow their minds!
Nevertheless, my plan was simple. Drink my coffee. Eat my donut. Sit in a booth, read my Bible app and study for the day's sessions.
Please Leave Me Alone So I Can Do Some Christian Stuff
Everything was going according to plan. I was not seeking to engage anyone in conversation. I simply wanted to be left alone to read. You know, like you feel on an airplane when you just want to read, watch a show on your iPad and not have to talk to the stranger seated next to you. This is why Dr. Dre invented Beats - so you can put on headphones on an airplane. These headphones declare "Leave me alone" to the rest of the passengers.
My Beats are blue, by the way.
Well, as you have probably figured out by now, a woman came into the donut shop. She sat in the booth directly in front of me, and was facing me.
I looked up and it felt like we were sitting at the same booth, especially since there was nothing but empty benches in between us.
I smiled and said "Hello" because that's what nice, Christian guys do.
She said "Hello" back.
Whew! That was close. I thought we'd have to actually talk. Remember... I wanted to be left alone.
Then, this woman asked if I lived near the donut shop and she began talking about the community and how nice, but different it was. She lives on the Westside of Jacksonville and was going to a doctor's appointment in a nearby office. She was just waiting at the donut shop because her taxi picked her up too early.
Oh, she's a single mother with two adult children and a teenager. She is having a tough time and is dealing with fear and worry about some life situations.
How do I know this?
You guessed it. She began to talk to me and I had to listen.
Are You A Christian?
She then said, "Are you a Christian?"
What? Why would she ask this? I'm definitely a Christian, but I wasn't reading my Bible (just the app) and am not wearing anything with Jesus fish or other churchy embroidery on it. I mean, I'm honored she asked and I said, "Yes" unapologetically, but was wondering why she asked.
I thought "I wonder what she thinks about Christians?" and yet, it wasn't going to change my answer.
I then asked, "How did you know I was a Christian?"
She said, "I don't know. I just did."
At this point, I figured I was all in on this potential divine encounter. In other words, I thought "Okay, God. I get it."
I closed my iPad and asked her "Are you a Christian?"
She answered "Yes" and then moved into my booth.
That was unexpected and caused me a little discomfort.
Are You a Preacher?
She then asked, "Are you a preacher?"
Oh boy, now I'm caught. Do I look like a preacher? I don't slick my hair back (don't have enough to do that). I don't talk with a preacher voice. I didn't say "sister" or "amen" every other phrase. I am wearing a golf shirt and khakis. I looked like a Best Buy employee. I didn't even have the traditional preacher uniform on (I knew I should've worn my Chuck Taylors today).
I answered "Yes" and discovered that apparently caused her relief.
Nonetheless, we talked for about fifteen minutes. She shared her story a bit. I stated that I had to leave to go to the junior high. Then we prayed. We prayed for strength and for power. We prayed for the worry that had overtaken her that led to an unhealthy fear and stress would be relieved by God's Spirit. We prayed over her children.
Then I said, "Good-bye."
I don't share this to say "Hey look at me. I did a good Christian thing."
I share this because I intently did NOT want to engage anyone in conversation. I wanted to just go through my routine. I wanted to read my Bible, not talk to someone about the Bible. I wanted to eat my French Cruller (well, I did to that) and drink my coffee in peace.
And then she showed up.
And then God nudged me as if to say "This is why you're here right now."
I wonder how many times I miss the moment? I wonder how many times my routine reigns in my life so I can just get through another day? I wonder how she knew I was a Christian, much less a pastor? I wonder where I can go to eat a donut in peace? Ha ha.
Nevertheless, I was reminded of this verse...
But in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect. 1 Peter 3:15 (ESV)
So friends. Be ready. Oh, and if someone says "You look like a Christian" that hopefully, is a good thing (unless their idea of a Christian is some warped caricature. In that case, just be real and change that perspective.)