We planned one more day in downtown Charleston together “child-free,” taking full advantage of the fact that our youngest had been in KY for almost 2 months now and that time was quickly coming to an end. We slept in, lounged around the house, then got ready and headed to our favorite BBQ dive to enjoy a late lunch. Because we had no agenda, we left there and made our way downtown. Our plan was to spend the afternoon reading in a coffee shop then enjoy a late dinner at a new restaurant that had just opened up.
It’s funny how God can use the most ordinary moments, the most simple day-to-day activities to teach you a lesson, to impact your heart in a way that causes you to leave that place a changed person.
That’s what happened when we walked by Molly Darcy’s Irish Pub that afternoon on our way to the restaurant for dinner.
God met us at the bar.
You know, my upbringing would cause me to believe that God isn’t in bars. It would cause me to believe that Jesus didn’t meet people right where they were (which, in this case, is a bar). It would tell me that I shouldn’t associate with anyone there because someone may label me a sinner and that would hurt my witness for Christ.
But Jesus hung out with sinners. And He didn’t seem to care what other religious people thought about Him. He only cared about how the Father felt about Him. And from what I can read in Scripture, the Father adored Him. His mission was simple: He wanted to reach hurting people and to radically change them all the while giving them something to be firmly rooted and grounded in. Kinda hard to reach them if you aren’t among them, right?
Sidenote: His first miracle was making wine (because His mama told Him to) for a wedding party, that He was obviously attending, after they were already drunk. He was at a party and He made them the best wine (John 2:1-11). Scripture even tells us that the religious people called him a drunk (Luke 7:34). He didn’t seem too phased by it.
And my point here is not that Jesus drank Himself crazy and partied like a mad fool. It’s simply that He didn’t allow the minor issues in life to deter Him. It’s a cultural thing - alcohol and Christians. But that’s a post for another day.
Sorry for the rabbit trail.
So we’re walking along the sidewalk when a few people lean over the rail and start asking us to come up to the patio and have a drink with them. They are laughing, having a great time and were so inviting. Their joy was so contagious. They were incredibly welcoming.
When we walked up the steps, they ran over to greet us. The enthusiasm wasn’t fake. They weren’t completely wasted. The main guy shared with us that he and his wife were celebrating their 1 year anniversary. He said that when they arrived at the restaurant, they were the only ones on the patio. They wanted to celebrate with people, to have fun and enjoy their anniversary, so they started inviting random strangers to come up and celebrate with them.
Did you get that?
They had no one to celebrate them, so they compelled people to come up and celebrate. They called them in. And because they called people in, those people turned right around and started inviting other strangers to come up for a drink.
Sheesh. That’s so powerful. A church message preached by non-churched people.
Y’all. Can I tell you what we saw as we came up those steps to the patio?
The patio was crammed full of people – all there because this one couple simply asked them to come.
No one knew anyone else.
Heck, we didn’t know their names for the longest time.
We only stopped for one drink, because we had someplace to be. But we ended up staying for 2 drinks because we couldn’t leave the atmosphere of that moment. God was showing us something and we needed to absorb it fully and completely.
What was the moment?
The moment was simply this: As Christians, if we could be so inviting, so non-judgmental of others, and welcome them in to this life of walking with Jesus, can’t we trust that He will take care of the sin, of the junk and of the wounded places and make them whole? Can’t we find balance between, “Neither do I condemn You” and “Go and Sin No More?” Do we have to choose one or the other? He didn’t. He loved people unconditionally and yet that love caused them to want to “go and sin no more.”
Welcoming the wounded.
Being radical and yet completely grounded.
Somehow, it’s all possible.
I know some will read this and only be able to concentrate on the fact that Shannon and I stopped for a drink. That’s okay. I realize that is a hard thing to work through – to process. But the bigger picture here is the fact that the world has a handle on something that we as children of God should be the masters at – not the other way around.
And the Hess family is determined to change that. We will be hospitable to the Holy Spirit, to other believers and to the world at large. Because we want to make a difference. We want to change the DNA of those who have no idea what they’re missing out on. And by the grace and help of God, we will.
Even if it’s only one person at a time.