As most of you know, I didn’t grow up a Christian, going to church or around other Christians. I was a pagan, in the Biblical sense. Several months back I met up with an old high school friend. She described my younger years as “powerful and wild, wild in the good sense, edgy.” She was being polite. I was wild – sex, drugs and rock and roll – really a bit of a train wreck waiting to happen. I’ve often thought if I had continued down that road I’d be dead.
Back when I was in high school the drinking age was 18, but at 14 we looked 18 and we all had fake I.D.s. My hometown had more bars per capita than any other city in NY. Going to the bars was a social event for most of my school friends. “We all did it.” We drank like crazy, played foosball, danced, and at times “hooked” up…
When I see this picture I’m reminded of the work of Jesus in my life. There’s so much I could say but a picture speaks a thousand words.
Twenty years later, after a masters and doctorate degree and over a decade of church work, I find myself back at the bars. The cheap beer has been replaced by a lovely glass of white wine, and the only cute guy we’re “checking out” is Jesus. But what’s been most surprising is it’s there, more so than in the church and seminary, where I’ve encountered some of the most authentic, salty, questioning, thinking conversations about Jesus. For some reason, and there are several, the venue is safe. Safe for women to be real about their life and faith. It’s evident that the Holy Spirit swirls among and within these conversations.
Recently a female educator shared with my husband that she couldn’t have me come speak to her classroom because “I was too edgy” (there’s that descriptor again) for her theological world. After all, “I taught the Bible in a bar.”
Yes, after all, I teach in a bar. After all those years of drinking, dancing, and carousing – I teach the Word of God in a bar. I haven’t missed Jesus’ humor in all of this. Jesus is funny. No, seriously, you’ve got to lighten up; sometimes he’s really funny!
That young girl who lived an “edgy life” at the bars now lives an “edgy life” at the bars.
What was – wasn’t annihilated – but repurposed. That’s what we see of the items in the Temple and it’s what Jesus does with us – he repurposes our life for him. That’s what it means to be set apart. Sacred. That’s what I see in this picture. A soul redeemed. Shalom restored. A woman repurposed. And, dare I even say, “sacredness sitting on a bar.”
“The old life is gone and the new has begun… ” (2 Corinthians 5: 17) “Now he uses us to spread the knowledge of Christ everywhere, like a sweet perfume… (2 Corinthians 14)