“Well, you sure must like that book if you own it twice!”
I took out my headphones and a man with large, genuine eyes was staring at me. I had come to Caribou after finishing my Christmas shopping in hopes of writing a few essays before the end of the semester. I explained to the man that the book Blue Like Jazz was my favorite, and I was giving it to my friend for Christmas; I wanted to mark my favorite sections so that she would be able to see why it’s my favorite.
“So what’s it about if it’s so special?”
I took a deep breath and started to sweat a little bit. This is what you train for in high school youth group, right? Maybe someone will notice you in a coffee shop and ask you why you believe what you believe? Well here I was, confronted face-to-face in one of those situations. I had no idea where this conversation would go, but I had no choice but to dive right in.
“Well, the subtitle of the book is ‘Nonreligious Thoughts on Christian Spirituality.’ I love this book because it takes a lot of big Christian words and concepts, and it breaks it down into a really beautiful, meaningful way.”
“So you’re a Christian, then?”
“Yes, sir, I am.”
“So you believe in life after death, then?”
“Well . . . yes. But that’s not why I’m a Christian. I think that if you say you’re a Christian, then you have to be more invested in the here-and-now instead of trying to escape into some magical place we call heaven.”
The man with the genuine eyes looked across the table at his friend he was having coffee with. “Oh boy! Now we’re having a conversation!”
We talked about how we didn’t believe the Bible was a science textbook. We talked about Bible translations, and how each time you read it you can walk away with a different idea. We talked about why I love Advent because it gives me permission to long for God to show up. We talked about why God would let a three-year-old-boy die, asking each other if God makes mistakes, if God really loves all people, and if God is still moving today. We talked about how we all are living stories . . . and if we believe that, we need to be striving to live a story worth telling. We disagreed here and there, but we both agreed that God works through people.
He asked me what I do, and I explained that I am studying worship arts and theology at a small Christian college in Iowa. We talked about music ministry, what my dreams for my life were, and what I’ve done to make them a reality. I explained how I lead worship at my church and school, and briefly mentioned that I had done music ministry in Guatemala.
Suddenly two women sitting at the table across from me turned around and stared at me. “Excuse me, I don’t mean to interrupt, but did you say you’ve been to Guatemala? I opened an orphanage in Guatemala!”
I moved to the other side of the table, and soon enough our three tables were all discussing mission work, what “ministry” means, and what it means to love people who are different than you.
Before I knew it, I had made four new friends who I listened and learned from. It was one of the most “gospel” interactions I’ve ever had. Five people who had never met came together with generosity, interest, and passion.
If you’ve known me for even a small amount of time, you probably know that the #1 thing on my bucket list is to get coffee with Donald Miller, the author of Blue Like Jazz, but I wonder if today I got something even better. I was able to have coffee with four beautiful hearts whom I didn’t even know existed when I woke up this morning. Perhaps this is better than having coffee with a famous author. Maybe I crossed something off my bucket list today.