As I walked into Foundation Grounds coffee house in in Maplewood, MO, I would be lying if I said my heart was beating fast with nervous anticipation. I stood just inside the door, coming out of the cold February wind, and scanned to room for him.
My eyes settled on Christopher, whose head was buried in his Macbook. I braced myself, said a silent prayer, and sat down across from him. He looked up, smiled, shut his laptop screen and said “Thanks for coming.”
He got up to get me a cup of coffee and as he returned to his seat, I saw him sigh. It was a big sigh… and I knew some big stuff was coming.
Christopher and I met three months previous through some friends of mine from church. I went to his booth at the John Burroughs School Unique Boutique art show and was in awe of his textiles. His scarves were beautiful and 100% green. I loved them and loved his philosophy of reusing things such as tires to make thread to weave stunning patterns. We talked about the Food Network and his husband of 12 years. We hit it off and my friends from church (little did I know) kind of had an ulterior motive in introducing us.
Bill and Julie loved Christopher and knew he was a searcher. They also knew he was a bit sour on Christianity. For some reason, they thought if he met me I would be a person able to answer Christopher’s questions. Fast forward three months, where I found myself in a coffee house answering said questions.
When he and I first planned the time to meet for coffee that afternoon, I told a few close friends that I needed to be bathed in prayer. Christopher has a genius IQ and got his master’s degree as a teenager. (He had a doctorate, too. In Math or something far beyond me…) Who was I to respond to what I knew would be great and really tough questions? So people prayed. Thank goodness.
For the next three and half hours, I listened to his story of why he hated Christians and why, after getting to know Bill, Julie and me he no longer did. He asked question after question… and all the right ones. He said stuff that gave me goose bumps. “I’ve read every word Jesus said over and over. I can’t find a contradiction. He was so kind and loving. That’s a dude I aspire to be.” And then the heart stopper: “When I realized I wasn’t bitter when Julie used the word “church” around me… and when I found out you were a seminary student and I liked you, I knew something was up. The bitterness that used to hit me whenever Christianity was mentioned didn’t hit me anymore. I didn’t actively pursue that healing. I knew it was outside myself and I knew I couldn’t ignore it.” Seriously…. goosebumps.
That afternoon at that coffee shop was beautiful and surreal. I was honest. I helped him understand a lot of misconceptions he had about what Christians believe. I have very little memory of the specifics of what I said, because it was very clear that it wasn’t me saying it. I just remembering feeling guided and protected… and that God was pursuing Christopher. All I needed to do was get out of the way and try not to mess up God’s plans. I still tear up when I remember that afternoon. I will never forget it.