My favorite place to study, as many of you probably know, is Bertolino's, a 24/7 coffee shop in Tacoma. It is certainly not ideal, its drip coffee leaves a bit to be desired, its chairs are not only uncomfortable but somewhat dangerous, and it does get a bit crowded at certain points in the evening. All in all, however, I really do love the place. The fact that it is open at 3am is a large part of it but the real draw is the wide and interesting variety of people who frequent Berts. Most of its baristas are Christians, though the night barista (11pm-5am) is an outspoken atheist, and many of them play Christian Contemporary music over the radio (which means I usually have headphones - my apologies if you enjoy that genre, I cannot endure it). Its patrons, on the other hand, are quite the radical mix of people with whom I really enjoy talking. I have gotten more opportunities to talk gospel with people there without having to try and force the conversation that direction than I have anywhere else that I can remember. Religion is a popular topic and, because I'm always studying "seminary stuff" people ask about it. As a somewhat shy person (this may surprise you, but with people I don't know I actually am) this is great because I don't have to take the initiative. One of the main reasons I continue to go there is because I have built a good number of relationships there and I am looking for ways to share the love of Christ with people. It's a slow process, but I believe I not only genuinely love most of the people I talk to there, but I even truly enjoy the conversations.
I realized the other night, however, that I still have a great deal to learn about love. There's a lady (50, 55? not sure) who has been frequenting Berts lately that drives me nuts. Although I do want to talk to people and I do want opportunities to share the gospel, I also go to study and want to be able to be productive, something I am actually able to do there most of the time - believe it or not. This lady has walked up to me several times when I am deep in my books and just started really off the wall conversations in which I get few words in edgewise. She saw me studying Greek and tried to tell me that Greek came from Latin, which is obviously incorrect, and started to go off on how Latin and Greek have some sort of magical quality, which I didn't really understand. I had never talked to her before but she just intruded into my study session, completely oblivious to the fact that I was trying to study. But being the good seminary student that I am, I tried to correct her a little bit (quite gently) but she didn't really listen to me she just went off to another weird topic about more things that made no sense. She is not a completely unique phenomenon. Coffee shops attract these kinds of people. These people do not fall into any sort of definable religious category they are really founders of their own special cult of one. They have some sort of Christianity mixed in usually and even though they claim to be Christian and claim to be some sort of follower of Christ, they are more than a little bit "out there" and need to get a better grasp of who the God of the Bible is.
But back to my unlovingness. The other night I was trying to write a Greek paper for Glessner, which had to be good because the last one was bloody awful, and it was really late at night (I didn't end up sleeping AT ALL that night). When I saw her walk in, I made sure my headphones were in, I kept my eyes zeroed in on my books and computer screen, and I completely avoided eye contact. She made her rounds, like she always does, going from table to table looking for someone to talk to, and, to my delight and someone else's chagrin, she found a victim who had an empty seat next to her and pounced. The lady she was talking to was clearly annoyed but, aside from being extremely rude, which I and most other Washingtonians have a very difficult time with, there was nothing she could do about it. As time progressed, I noticed her begin to kind of ignore her, nodding occasionally but not really looking at her, and eventually she decided to look for someone else. I zeroed back in on my work (thankfully someone else was at my table so there wasn't an open spot) and when she did walk up to me I pretended not to hear her as she tried to start a conversation with, "Oh Greek, that's really cool!". It was believable. I had my headphones in and she wasn't very loud, I honestly only barely heard her, and she went away. She was actually unsuccessful in finding a victim this time and as someone had just vacated the back table, she sat down by herself and drank her coffee. A bit later I saw her bury her head in her arms and I think she fell asleep.
She is obviously a very very lonely woman. She has some form of her own version of Christianity, mixed with God only knows what else, but she needs, wants, and is desperately looking for love. I felt overwhelmingly convicted that I should go back there and talk to her but I resisted it. I was scared that if I did, I would be her victim everytime she came in. I was worried that I would never get out of the conversation if I started one and it was already about 130am, maybe later. I justified it with the argument that it wouldn't do any good anyway. She was nuts afterall and that I really had a lot of work to do so I should get that done too. I didn't talk to her and eventually I left to get a change of scenery (I finished my all nighter at home) but I still feel guilty about it.
But here's where I am looking for help. How do you talk to these people? How do you have a meaningful conversation with people whose own ideas don't really make sense in the least? How do you share the gospel with people who don't really want to listen to you, they just want to talk? I'm afraid of the answers - I don't like where my answer would take me - but I genuinely would like help here.
Longing for a New Movement
5 years ago