An unlikely meeting to challenge my perspective.
I have found sometimes unusual cravings are directions from God. After a God ordained trip throughout the southwest of the USA, I found myself craving a hamburger, conversation, and a beer.
A raging sleet storm forced everyone (or so it seemed) inside; the first bar stop was packed to standing room only. Frustrated and cold, I pulled my jacket collar up and walked to the next hotel bar dodging in out of building to avoid the miserable weather. Finally arriving I took off my coat and bag and threw them onto a waiting lounge table. The bar was packed too, but one seat was open at the bar between two men. Quickly walking over to it I inquired from the young man on my right, “Is this open?”
“I think so,” came his accented reply.
Turning to the man on the left, “are you saving this seat?”
“No,” came a deep accented voice.
‘Great!’ I thought, plunking down to order my drink so I could return to my waiting lounge chair.
The man, a slightly overweight businessman, wore a black suit and tie. The gold and diamond watch on his wrist alone probably cost more than my year’s salary. Doing a quick hand check there wasn’t any rings on the finger. Now I had enough information to strike up a conversation.
“Where you from?” I asked.
Turning from the shaken martini and a shrimp platter he was consuming to face me he responded, “Florida, but I drove down from Mesa Verda today.”
“Oh. Where are you from originally? Your accent isn’t Floridian (if that is a word). You on vacation?” I asked.
“Germany originally, but I work in both Germany and Florida.”
“Ah, that’s the accent,” I commented.
“This is just a stopover. I am waiting here to kill time. I’m mixed up on the time. I had dinner reservations but am an hour early due to the time zone switch. Tomorrow I’m continuing on to Las Vegas to take in the activities there. Then fly home. What are you doing?”
“Hold on,” I said as the bartender finally came and asked for my drink order. I chatted with her about different beers on tap, tried the local flavors (which I disliked) and with no better option settled on a Budweiser. While she poured the drink I nicely excused myself from the bar to settle into my lounge chair.
Finally a thought interrupted the silence, ‘I should talk with the man at the bar.’
‘Nope, I’m here to relax,’ came my reflex thought.
Well the argument raged much like it had between my body, mind and wallet for the beer. Finally I stood up and settled into the bar stool for what I knew was going to be a long conversation.
“Excuse me, is it okay if I join you again. Let me tell you what I do.”
‘He won’t mind,’ I reasoned, ‘any man sitting at a bar alone will welcome conversation.’ So I sat and began talking without waiting for a response.
We began immediately talking about what we did for a living. He was perplexed at my current state of affairs (traveling and not working). He asked how it would be possible to do what I do and I spoke that my trust rested in knowing a good God who loves me. I trusted he would provide for me as I needed.
“I can’t believe that,” he responded, “you see money is where there is security.” We discussed what true security looks like. (The conversation went way deeper than I planned or expected.) No matter what we talked about he simply could not be convinced God could provide security for him greater than money and handwork could.
“You see, a couple of years ago I got sick.” His mood changed very sober, “My best friend, or who I thought was my best friend, left me once I was unwilling to pay the tab for his fun. I found out then that he wasn’t a friend, but only using me to freeload his lifestyle off. In the sickness I watched friends leave me. It took me two years to overcome that sickness. People simply stopped coming around visiting and being friends. When I needed people they weren’t there.”
I listened carefully as his monologue continued.
“Now I am cutting out the bad around me. Anyone who isn’t encouraging or agree with me I simply cut out of my life. I am breaking off those who hold me down.”
He began opening up about the pains and hurts in his life. Abuse of friends, sickness and loss in his life. How he had been coping without finding completion. He talked about how people had used him due to his wealth and when he was in desperate need they simply abandoned him. As he continued to share I could see and hear this man’s desperate need for unconditional love. He was like a man who was wandering through life in search of something he could not capture.
My heart broke for him as the minutes on the wall clock behind his head tick by.
Having shared his life story and vented much of his pain, the conversation began winding down. The conversation began an aimless wander. We began to talk about places we’ve visited.
“I visited Asia last year. It was a great place,” I offered.
“Asia is great. The discothèques in Singapore and the night life there is quite amazing. A while ago I spent a vacation there enjoying it and the last night I spent the whole night out on the town until I had to get on an airplane. I’ll be visiting Thailand in a few months for three days to enjoy the time there. You know. It the same reason I’m going to Las Vegas for a few nights. Yeah, I visit Asia once or twice a year.”
A internal war raged as he continued to talk about his visits to Asia.
Having worked with child sex trafficked victims I knew of their stories, their pain. Disgust battled compassion within me. All I wanted to do was cut into this man. Tell him what’s wrong with him. To stop immediately. Yet this John was broken, hurting. As he droned on I wrestled over two questions: what would Christ do? What did he do?
What would you do?