We sat outside on a super nice afternoon in June. The kind of afternoon that doesn’t really happen in June. In fact, while we were sitting, we drank a cup of coffee and just talked. There aren’t very many days you can sit outside in June at 2:00 in the afternoon and drink a cup of coffee. This day was exceptional. The breeze was perfect. The temperature even more perfect. It felt like Spring.
I don’t make enough time to just sit and talk to people. I’m not sure why because I always enjoy it. That’s something I need to work on. I want to be better at that. It seems I let myself be too busy most of the time. I wonder if Jesus was too busy to just talk to people. It didn’t seem that way that day at the well, or when He met with Nicodemus that night.
Now I kind of feel ashamed. I wonder if people know I care about them. Or do I just not have time. This particular moment really convicted me. I sat outside that coffee shop on a perfect day with a guy I really don’t even know. That I should know. I mean really know. This whole thing materialized because he asked me if we could sit down and talk sometime...over a month ago. We go to church together. We are family. We are brothers. We are connected. And we are strangers.
Here I am, part of the Sunday morning speaking rotation in our church, sitting across the table from this guy who I don't even know. And isn’t it ironic...he asked me to join him for coffee to talk about how we could build greater relationships within our body. Kick me while I am down.
We talked about that, but we also talked about him. We talked about how he came to know Jesus. We talked about how he started going to church because of this super cute girl he really wanted to go out with and her family would only let him see her if he went to church with them. We talked about how his father passed away when he was a teenager and his mother, who was abusive, handed him a twenty dollar bill and left him to go live in another state with a man she met online.
So there he was, senior year, neither parent. Twenty dollars. I can’t even imagine. What does a kid do in that situation, I ask? Well, get a job. Start paying the house payment. Go to school and go to work. Mostly, go to work. “In fact,” my friend shares, “if it weren’t for a few people that really cared about me, I don't know if I would have made it.” A neighborhood buddy that would come by in the mornings and wake him, even drag him to school...every day. That girl’s parents that would teach him about the love of Jesus. A minister at the local church that would take time to spend with him and teach him. Even a group of compassionate, caring, wise elders that embraced him, challenged him, and helped him be the best version of himself that he could be. He even said, “Those guys weren’t typical elders.” That’s a good thing. A really good thing.
He talked about the people at that church like they were family. Actually…they were family to him. And they didn’t have to be. When he went through his prodigal stages of life, they were still family to him. And they still didn’t have to be. And he remembers it still. And today...he invests in children. At work, at church, in all he does. It’s a lifestyle for him. Because it was lifestyle for those that delivered him.
That’s a cool story. A really cool story. That story needs to be told. It’s the story of God’s redeeming love. People that had no reason to love...loved anyway. They loved someone who wasn’t looking for love...well, not that kind of love. And the one who was loved was better for it. Transformed his life. Put him on a different path. I love that story.
Tomorrow morning I will get up to teach. Inevitably, he will be sitting out there in the group of people that I am speaking to. Maybe something meaningful will be said to inspire someone. But what’s cool is that I’ve already been inspired this week. Not by the words of a sermon. By a story about real people and real love. By a real relationship that led to a real transformation.
I enjoyed the time talking to my brother. I enjoyed getting to hear about what God has done in his life. I need to make more time for that. I guess you never really do know the person next to you...unless you ask.
The sermon this week has already been preached. And more often than not, I think the Holy Spirit can do more with the coffee shop sermon than the one that comes from the pulpit.
“Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.” Philippians 2:3-4