Do not be surprised, my brothers and sisters, if the world hates you
--From John’s First Letter to the Churches
I spent the next couple days at Café Brazil pulling all-nighters at the never vacant coffee shop. The white noise keeps me focused. It also makes Greek a lot cooler when a 22 year old Co-ed from SMU looks impressed for a moment that I am studying Greek—at least that’s what I told myself. I finished my first Romans Exegetical, a ridiculously meticulous paper on what the text really means starting from the Greek, parsing the verbs, translating into English, and deriving its meaning for practical application. Brutal. I was so absorbed that I didn’t bother to check my email, but when I did I noticed Don had contacted me—a lot.
Wed 11/7/2007 12:18 PM
Chris, good afternoon. You mentioned coming by the shop this morning. I don’t know to expect you or not. I have no idea of your integrity, it doesn’t matter if you visit or not - I’d like the visit. That would be cool. More important is that your word is reliable, letting me know if you’re coming or not is the best way to understand/trust you,
bye, and thanks,
PS: you can call me anytime. I’m not always online.
Wed 11/7/2007 12:46 PM
Hey Chris, interested in having coffee with me this afternoon?
Don Dent 214-XXX-XXXX
Wed 11/7/2007 3:39 PM
What do you know about faith? It’s come to my attention that maybe that is what I need to have.
Thu 11/8/2007 1:48 PM
Chris, I’m not a co-dependent kind of guy. The fact I’ve written you several times recently doesn’t infer cyber stalker. I normally don’t give a damn, ESPECIALLY ABOUT YOU CHRISTIANS. [HOWEVER SOMETHING IS CAUSING ME TO QUESTION MY BELIEF SYSTEM ]. My ONLY motivation in writing you, was to further my understanding of your relationship, with your god, whatever road that leads. I’M NOT APOLOGIZING FOR MULTIPLE ATTEMPTS. I will now, as of this moment cease any more communication with you, the next move, my friend, is yours.
Fri 11/9/2007 2:20 PM
Want to go get a burger?
Don Dent 214-XXX-XXXX
Sat 11/10/2007 1:36 PM
Chris, good afternoon. I hope I didn’t come across as a total jerk in my previous email. Sometimes I say the inappropriate things and the results are opposite of what I intend. Please accept my apologies, if I did offend you. Don Dent
I picked up my phone and stared at Don’s name. What was I getting myself into? Don had seemed unstable, but this might be over the top. God, give me wisdom. I looked at the ceiling for a moment and then back at my phone. I realized that I accidentally hit call
“Hey do you want to hang out tonight?” I asked.
“Love to, Chris. Where?”
“West Village, Starbucks.”
“Okay, is 6 o’clock okay?”
“Yeah it is, see you then.”
I hung up and called Scott Michael. A little back up never hurt. I had met him in Iraq while stuck at a truck stop waiting for tires for the flatbed trucks that carried our tanks. I’m not sure if the Pakistani drivers somehow popped the tires on purpose to get paid more, but we were stuck in Scania, Iraq prolonging our stay in theater a week which nobody was happy about.
So stuck in the middle of nowhere Iraq I made it to a chapel service and met Scott Michael, a lieutenant and budding musician. I always called him Scott Michael because I felt it might help him get in the music business. It didn’t, but the name stuck.
“Sure what kind?” Scott Michael asked.
“Talking to a lost dude tonight at West Village Starbucks.” I smiled into the phone. “I think he’s gay.”
“I better come in case this guy is hitting on you, wouldn’t want you to cross over to the other side—Wouldn’t want him to seduce you.”
“Shut up, man, he’s old.”
“All the more reason to worry.”
“Come to my place at five forty five and we’ll meet Don at six.”
“Okay, see you then.
Scott Michael showed up wearing a suede 70s leather jacket, a thrift store pearl snap shirt and tan thrift store cowboy boots. The urban cowboy had arrived.
“I think Don might hit on you way before he hits on me,” I said.
“Why is that?”
“Just messing with you, you ready to go?”
I grabbed my Life Application Study Bible (NAS) and headed for his truck. Scott Michael looked at me and then my Bible with a toothy grin.
“You got your sword?” he asked.
“I don’t roll without it.”
We parked in the West Village parking garage and walked toward Starbucks. My phone buzzed indicating Don’s impatience.
“We’re here, Don,” I said into the phone. “See you in a sec.”
“Okay, I’m sitting down in the back with coffee.”
Scott Michael and I opened the door of Starbucks and were greeted by the warm smell of fresh coffee and the energy of a downtown coffee bar. Scott Michael tapped me on the shoulder, nodded towards don and whispered, “Is he that old scrawny guy over there?”
We made our way past laptops, coffee, and caffeinated conversations to find Don on a couch with a coffee table stretched before him. Scott Michael and I sat down.
“I didn’t know this was going to be a party,” Don said.
“Don, meet Scott Michael.”
“Nice to meet you. Are you a Christian?” Don asked.
“Yes I am,” Scott Michael smiled.
“What the **** is that?” Don asked pointing to my Bible. “Why did you bring your family Bible. That is the biggest ******* Bible I have ever seen.”
Scott Michael slid his pocket edition New Testament in his pocket.
“It’s not my family Bible. I figured if you had any questions I could just show you here in the Bible where the answers are. I just want you to see that Jesus loves you.”
Don ducked as if someone might be trying to conduct a drive-by outside. “Keep your ******* voice down. Look Chris, people know me here. I can’t be seen with a Bible. I have a reputation you know.”
Scott Michael and I just looked at Don.
“Well what do you want to do?”
I want to get the **** outta here, that’s for sure. Let’s go for a walk or something.
“Okay, let’s do it,” I said. “Let me put my Bible back into Scott Michael’s truck and we will just take a walk.”
I made my way back to the truck and then back to Scott Michael and Don sitting outside Starbucks.
Don looked at me, “Both of you guys served in the Army?”
“Yeah that is where we met—Iraq.”
“This is ******* surreal. I don’t think I have ever met someone who served in the Army. Let me guess, you love George Bush, too”
“Surreal. ******* Surreal.”
We started walking along the sidewalk towards Borders. A crowded trolley passed and Don checked to see if he knew anyone.
“Why are you so jumpy?” Scott Michael asked.
“I’m not jumpy. I’m just trying to figure out why I’m hanging out with you guys,” Don’s eyes rested on the two of us for a moment. I do believe everything has a purpose.”
“But you don’t believe in God?” I asked.
“I don’t know if I believe in God. How would I know if there was a God? Has he ever talked to you?”
“You mean audibly?” I asked.
“How else would he talk to you?” Don replied.
“No, not audibly. I mean not yet, anyway. But God knows how to get people’s attention. He got yours didn’t he?
“Not that I know of,” Don said.
“Well then why are we here?”
“**** if I know. I just wanted to know if faith is something that you might have and that I might need. I learned about trusting a higher power in AA. But that doesn’t make sense. God could be a doorknob or a light fixture as long as it wasn’t you. It didn’t make sense to me, but I have been sober for 25 years and let me tell you, that is a ******* accomplishment.”
“Congrats.” I said.
“Have you ever been high or drunk?”
“I have,” piped in Scott Michael. “When I was in college, I used to get high and listen to Metallica.”
“Finally, something normal about you.”
“Don, why did you even come to Fellowship in the first place?”
“Good question. I had no intention of going to that ******* place, but I was on my way to work out. And on the way back from my gym, I saw one of those box churches. I immediately got pissed off and went home and looked up the church online and wrote them an email.”
“What did it say?” I laughed.
“Well, I told them to get out of my neighborhood. I didn’t wish them any harm, but they needed to go to North Dallas or something—box churches don’t belong in my neighborhood. I told them that I wished they all would get raptured or something. I didn’t wish them any harm, I just wanted them to leave.” Don paused thinking. “I think I asked them if they used snakes and tambourines in their services.”
“What response did you get?”
“Well the pastor, Chris McGregor, wrote me and told me I was rude and that I was being judgmental about something I don’t know anything about.”
“He called you out.”
“Yeah, he did. So I was ******. In AA they told us not to judge. And so I had to go and apologize for being an ass. I showed up at the church and met Chris and apologized.”
“What did you think of the place the first time you showed up?”
“Well it wasn’t like any church I’d seen before. It was like a big Starbucks with an auditorium. The music was cool and the message was interesting. So I kept coming.”
“How long have you kept coming?” Scott Michael asked.
“Well, it’s been about 8 months now.”
“Wow, 8 months?”
“Yeah, 8 months.”
“And you’re still embarrassed about it?”
“None of my friends know. I keep it to myself.” Don looked across the street and stared at the crosswalk.
“You want to know why I have faith?” I asked.
“Yeah,” Don said.
“I’ve seen too much, Don. There’ve been way too many coincidences for me to say that God’s not real. It seems that God gives me front row seats to see him do amazing stuff in the lives of people.”
“Like what?” Don asked.
“Well, it’s kind of a long story.” I said.
“I got all night.”