Sunday, March 8, 2009

Three Questions You Don't Expect to Answer In Starbucks

1. What do you believe in?

2. How is your relationship with Jesus?

3. What do you believe about satan? (for you SCL fans, you'll recognize the middle finger of grammar there)

Tonight I went to Starbucks to read the previously mentioned book o' boring and while sipping a London Fog Latte, a young man began making conversation with me. He asked me about my book (which I was brutally honest about) and I politely asked about his (he was reading about Chinese calligraphy). The conversation continued in a small-talk fashion until he asked once more about my reading selection. He wanted to know why I was reading about ministry management. Now, normally, I'm a pretty closed off individual - I don't like to share personal things (please sense the completely ridiculosity of that statement), but I began sharing with him that I'm a seminary student at Multnomah, that I live in the Seattle area and that I'm going to school to get more training to do ministry. 

OUT OF THE BLUE, he asks question #1: What do you believe in? When I looked at him a little blankly, he followed up with What religion are you? Finally, I overcame my shock and told him I was Evangelical Protestant (I didn't really want to get into the whole Southern Baptist thing) and that I believed in Jesus. That conversation led to a few more questions on his part and I turned the questions back on him. He grew up Catholic, but had tried many other religions and has landed on Jehovah's Witness. He believes in everything and nothing (his words). We chatted for a few minutes about his religious upbringing and Jehovah's Witness in particular when again...

OUT OF THE BLUE, he asks question #2: How is your relationship with Jesus? Having really never been asked that question outside religious institutions, I had to be completely honest and say that, like any relationship, it ebbs and flows, but He always leads me back to deep connectedness with Himself eventually. This train of conversation continued again for a few minutes and included some other topics. 

THEN RANDOMLY, during a lull in conversation, he asked me question #3: What do I believe about satan? At this point, I had to be really honest and tell him what I knew from the Bible, but that I hadn't ever really thought through my personal thoughts on satan and evil spirits, etc. 

All in all... it was a little awkward. But it was life. And it was real. We don't believe in the same things; he doesn't believe in the things that his church does. But it was absolutely apparent from our brief conversation that he loves people and wants to know people. Which made me realize that the Bible is right (which, I guess, really shouldn't be a shocker to me) when God says "But in your hearts set apart Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect..." (1 Peter 3.15). Someone asked me to articulate what I believed about Jesus, His church and His enemy. And I have to admit, I was not as prepared as I could have been.

So the question today is: how would you answer those questions? No matter what religious or non-religious background you have, how do you articulate what beliefs you hold? What make you who you are? What do you value? In what or in whom is your hope placed?

Hopefully, the next time I'm at Starbucks presented with questions like that, I'll be prepared to answer. Cause apparently you never know what can happen at Starbucks. =)


Michael Gilley said...

Hey, great post. This was written very well. He asked you Jesus, his church, and his enemy. At first those questions seem left field but at a closer look they deal with the heart of that matter don't they?

To answer your questions:
1) I trust in a God who is all loving and compassionate, who sent his only son, Jesus, a Jew, over two thousand years ago to live as we should live, who died on our behalf, and was raised three days later back to life as the first among many. His message was to have compassion on all others and to treat them as we would wish to be treated, to feed the hungry and take care of the poor, and to never place ourselves before others.

2) My relationship with Jesus is a relationship that I share with many. It has its share of good times and bad but overall it grows stronger and stronger everyday in love and understanding, patience and maturity, peace and tenderness. He often leads me where I do not want to go but I find that I grow most in such places. Still yet, there is so much more to learn from him.

3) Satan is a transliteration from the Hebrew phrase ha satan meaning "the satan" or when translated "the accuser" or "the one who accuses." Satan is therefore not a proper name but an office. Our understanding of this figure has been dramatically affected by medieval theology (Divine Comedy anyone?) but for the Bible the office is extremely fluid in nature, often filling in for the antagonist of God's work. In some instances it seems to be a collection of many things or spirits and in others, like Job, it seems to come from the very courts of God. Either way, the office is, I believe, a personification of evil itself in the world. Evil is a dark, massive void of chaos that runs against all order given to the cosmos through Creation. It was neither created nor wanted by God, and it is even now being defeated by those participating in the God's kingdom work as inaugurated through the death and resurrection of Christ and to be completed in resurrection of all on the last day.

TenaciousT said...

I had a similar (but also very different) experience on the plane ride last month to Orlando. I will have to blog about it sometime, cause it's definitely something that I still think about all the time... and also the reason that I need a new Bible (intrigued?)

Matt Layton said...

I am reminded of the "six questions" assignment in Dr. Mr. Bennett's Spiritual form class...and also the many artwalk/ministry excursions in downtown springfield we had to go on. Guess it has application in the real world after all. LOL jk

Jenny said...

Gilley - I love your thoughts on "the Satan" - thanks for the reminder.

And Sarah, I love you and your thoughts on life. Thanks for reminding me to take a minute to reflect on my thoughts on my Jesus, his church, and his enemy. I wish you were here so I could talk to you about this. :)

Anonymous said...

Hey Sarah,

I don't get a chance to peek at your blog very often but when I do, I am always amazed by your openness and ability to describe your reality. If I were approached by a young man in Starbucks who asked those questions, I would have assumed he was weird and dangerous and fled immediately, and then missed an opportunity to witness!

God created a seriously approachable, open Spirit in you. You will no doubt have many similar encounters working for God. You are such a great writer...I would encourage you to write a book about those encounters - it would be hilarious and spiritually challenging to those of us who are not as open or brave!!

Anne L.