God Met Us At The Bar

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.

To us.

Complete strangers.

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?

Molly Darcy'sThe 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.

That’s What Friends Are For

PoemI’ll be 43 in a few weeks.  I’ve had a lot of experience, good and bad, with friendships.  I’ve learned a lot, mostly by taking the hard road. If I had known then what I know now (how many times have we said that?!) I think I would have been a better friend much sooner in life and had some awesome relationships to show for it.  Because I don’t want all ten of my dear readers to experience the same emotional roller coaster of friendship, I thought I would share 5 truths I’ve discovered about friendship.

Here we go.

The Only Way To Have A Friend Is To Be One

Let’s face it.  Women can be a hard lot to get along.  We’re fierce.  We’re territorial.  We’re emotional.  One minute we love each other and the next, we can be cutting each other down with a quickness.  But at the end of the day, the only way you will ever have true friends, is to be a true friend.  If you enter into a relationship with walls up, guards up, and preconceived notions about how a person should be your friend, you will be highly disappointed every time.

Don’t wait for someone else to invite you over.  Don’t wait to say hello.  Don’t act like you didn’t see someone just to see if they’ll come find you first.  That’s crap.  Women (and I can say this since I am a woman) always want someone else to reach out first.  Honestly I think that comes from a place of brokenness and fear of rejection.  When we have been hurt, stomped on, trust abused, and left holding the bag in a relationship, we can be tentative to start a new one.  But if you are being healed up from the inside out and realize that you are fully loved, fully accepted, fully you, then you can show yourself friendly and not be afraid of the brokenness in others.

It’s quite freeing, honestly.

There Isn’t A Perfect Friend (except for Jesus, but that’s not the point here)

For so many years (so. many. years.) I was setting myself up to find the perfect friend.  And every time I was highly disappointed.  HIGHLY disappointed.  Why?  Because I had no clue that there wasn’t a perfect friend.  I know that sounds asinine but sometimes we operate in life from a very skewed, very filtered lens and well, that was mine.  I wanted someone who would want to be with me constantly.  I wanted someone who needed me as much as I needed them.  I wanted someone who had all kinds of things in common with me.

So I would have friends in and out of my life.  And everything would go swimmingly for a few months, maybe even a couple of years.  Then.  Then all hell would break loose and the bottom would drop out of the relationship.  I would be left standing, holding my broken heart, reconfirming my sneaking suspicion that everyone was out to get me, no one could be trusted and no one was faithful or loyal anymore.  I would find myself believing the lie that no one could ever love me or be for me because everyone had a “me me me” mentality.

It was exhausting.  I was broken but I was expecting everyone else to work around that in their own brokenness.

Friendships Require Work

Which brings me to this point.  Friendships require work – but not the kind that you think I’m going to talk about.  If you’re going to really work on a relationship, then the best thing you can do is work on yourself.  I think that requires a repeat. If you’re going to really work on a relationship, then the best thing you can do is work on yourself.  That’s the best gift you can give any relationship you’re in.  Yes.  Our natural instinct is to fix each other, but that priceless scripture is really true.  Get the plank out of your own eye before trying to remove the speck from your sister’s eye.  Seriously.  It’s that simple.  When we work on our own heart issues, then we become free to love others in their brokenness and on their path to healing.

It’s all about grace and patience and learning not to take offense.  If we approach every relationship with the understanding that we are all broken people on the path to healing, then we can show so much more grace and patience with people when their buttons are pushed.  We won’t be so easily offended.  Why?  Because who I am is not determined by my friendship with you.  Who I am is not determined by the level of love you show me.  Who I am is determined by the simple fact that I am a daughter of the Most High King and He loves me unconditionally.

And that is enough.  So take care of yourself.  That will help you be a better friend.

Boundaries People

This one is a lesson I hold very close to my heart.  I’ve have asked God over and over again to help me create safe boundaries for my relationships.  Who belongs where?  Which circle?  That’s okay.  There is no hard and fast rule that says you have to be BFF’s with every woman that comes into your life.  Quite the opposite actually. Don’t give everyone one in your life the same access to your heart.  Stop it.  Jesus Himself had boundaries – there were the 3 closest disciples, the 12 disciples, the 70, etc. etc.  He gave us a great example of healthy boundaries in relationships.  And He was God incarnate.  Yeah.  Chew on that for a while.

You will have people in your life who you were close to – very close to – and time or issues may strain that relationship.  Fix it.  That’s necessary.  But that doesn’t mean you have to give that person the same access to your heart that you did before.  Trust takes time to rebuild, but you can love people where they are and be friendly, heck, even be a friend without handing them your heart.

Different Seasons May Mean Different Friends

This one has been hard for me.  I’m finding that as my heart heals up, I’m becoming more sentimental than I thought I was.  Actually I’ve always been sentimental, but I just blocked it so I wouldn’t feel pain.  I hate pain. Yet it’s a necessary part of life. Right?  When friends have left my life for various reasons and then reappeared, I’ve longed for them to be back at their original place in my life.  Logically speaking, it makes sense.  If you were this close before, and we work things out, then you should be that close again.

But I am discovering that some friends are seasonal friends.  Some friends are life long friends but still not really close.  Some friends drift away never to return again.  And some friends become anchors in your life that time, space, seasons or issues can’t affect.  And all of that is okay.  Heck, it’s even okay if you don’t have one close best friend.  I’m learning that I have a few close friends who I feel totally comfortable bearing my soul, trusting them with my very life, and we hang out a lot.  Yet, we aren’t on the phone 50 times a day or spending every waking moment together.  We do life.  We do community and there’s a comfort in that.  We can settle into the fact that the relationship is there, it’s solid and it’s being nurtured.

So cut yourself some slack, friend.  Don’t try to make relationships happen.  Instead, be friendly.  Be yourself.  Work on your own heart issues and watch how God brings healthy, safe people into your life.  Don’t be surprised when you find Him drawing boundary lines for you in your relationships.  It’s okay.  He has your best interest at heart.  Be open to the possibilities of new friends.

And don’t be shocked when you find yourself full of love for people that you wouldn’t have dreamed would have been in your life.  You may find they make some of the best friends around.