I feel that I have to publicly embrace and something shameful that I have hidden for years… I am a Starbucks addict.
I used to be the guy that scoffed at all of the idiots who spent $4 or more on a coffee beverage. I laughed at their girlie drinks with whipped topping and sprinkles. I loved looking down my nose at the lemmings that marched dutifully to these ridiculous, hipster hangouts. Even after I started going to them – in secret of course – I still loved to hypocritically mock the mindless Sbux drones… Deep down though I would be jonesing for my Venti quad Mocha Latte. (Though I now typically go with just an unsweetened iced coffee as my metabolism being the old broken down heap that it is – cannot process all of the sugar calories.)
I go to Starbucks regularly – probably 3 or 4 times a week to work. There is a good one about half way between my home and the church and they have a couch that practically has my name on it. They also usually start getting my iced coffee ready as soon as I walk through the door. It’s pathetic I know. But it is a great place to get work done – and get a caffeine fix!
A few days ago was no different – my drink was ready and my couch was free. I settled in to begin working… But after a few minutes – I had this feeling that someone was looking at me. I glanced around – and yes I was right. Someone was looking at me… he came over as soon as we made eye contact… It was one of those moments of – oh no. I don’t recognize this guy but he definitely recognizes me. He’s walking straight towards me… I’m such a jerk! How can I not recognize this guy?!? Cmon brain! Kick in here… what’s his name! Hey… he says… Hey… I say back… I noticed your computer – is that a MacBook? Ahhh relief! He doesn’t know me after all – he just wants to ask me tech questions about my computer… And that’s what we talked about for about 10 minutes. He told me all about his conversion from the PC world to the Mac Universe and how much he and his family love their new Mac Lifestyle. He was very witty and he cussed like a sailor but he was the kind of guy that you like immediately and somehow the cussing just seems natural… Then, he started telling me about his career… Uh oh. I already knew what that meant. Next he was gonna ask… So, what do you do for a living? The dreaded question sometimes as a pastor. Not at all dreaded because I am ashamed of my role but because I knew what his reaction was going to be as he recalled all of the “naughty” words he had just been using. And so, just as I feared, he asked. And when I told him, just as I feared, he immediately began apologizing for all of the no-no words he had just used.
That’s usually where the person I’m talking to immediately begins looking at their watch and idling towards the door… but that didn’t happen this time. He still made all of the apologies for hurting my delicate ears with his surly talk – but then after he worked through that uncomfortable (and un-neccesary) apology, he asked if he could sit down and talk for a little bit. He the proceeded to tell me all about his hurts from “the church.” He didn’t call them hurts – he talked about it more from the standpoint of defending why he didn’t really go to church much… but I recognized them as hurts. Deep hurts actually. Hearing his story made me angry at the churches he had been a part of. I found myself being the one that wanted to apologize to him for what had happened to him at the hands of other pastors. I knew, though, that an apology wasn’t what he needed nor is it what would help him. He just needed to be heard.
That’s when I realized that sometimes coffee isn’t just coffee. Maybe some good has finally come from dumb Starbucks addiction! Sometimes wherever we are, coffee shop or grocery or library or bar, is where God has us to see how we will respond to a need. Maybe it’s a need someone has to just be heard… maybe it’s a need to have help getting their groceries to their car… or a need to have someone pay their tab … or to find a friend. We tend to believe that as Christians we have a responsibility to preach the gospel to anyone who has ears… but instead I think we have a responsibility to be the gospel to anyone who has breath. I don’t think people need to hear our words 1/10th as much as they need to experience our love… God’s love.
So my advice is – every now and then look up from what has your focus and attention and see if there is an opportunity to show somebody Jesus – not just tell them about Him. I’ll try to remember Philippians 5:3-8 … Jesus came to live among us… to put us before Himself… To humble Himself… to be a servant… And maybe I can follow in His footsteps.
Jason Rehmel is the Lead Pastor at Eastside Christian Church on the east side of Cincinnati. If you are someone who has had a terrible experience(s) at a church or churches – stop by some weekend and give it one more shot with Eastside. Whether you have felt judged, or dismissed, or unwanted – wherever it has been – Eastside is different.