Jesus often shows up in really unexpected places. A strip club isn’t one you typically picture much “jesus talk.” However, as I’ve been sharing about my experiences at Burning Man this past August to InterVarsity students and staff, I was reminded of one of the most bizarre and beautiful stories from my time in the desert.
One one of our last days at Burning Man, Nicole, one of the members of our group went to an ecstatic dance workshop. All week Nicole and I had been talking about how the Holy Spirit often compels us to do unexpected things that challenge our trust in God and comfort in our willingness to share Jesus. Wish granted. And then some.
During the ecstatic dance workshop, Nicole began to encounter the Holy Spirit and felt led to lift her hands in worship and declare her love for Jesus amongst the swirling, twirling burners who were “expressing themselves through evolving movement”. As you can imagine, Nicole was nervous to start yelling about her love for Jesus, but having the indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit is a little like a spiritual laxative- you really can’t hold it in.
After the workshop ended, a woman urgently made a beeline towards Nicole- “were you the one talking about Jesus? I feel like Jesus has been pursuing me and I’m not quite sure what to do.” Not only was Nicole surprised, she was thrilled that her willingness to take a risk meant that she could connect with someone who was curious about Jesus. As they sat down under a bright, billowing canopy on the pillows strewn around the edge of the workshop tent, Dana began to share with her about her unconventional spiritual journey.
Working as a stripper in L.A., Dana had begun to wonder if Jesus was able to help her deal with a lot of difficult issues in her life. She had begun to pray and seek help from Jesus in everything from giving her peace in her dream life to providing rent money. “A few months ago I was short $700 for my rent which was due the next day.” Dana began to share with Nicole how she had come into work on a Sunday needing her rent the next day. “Sunday is a slow day at the club & I was really stressed out that I wouldn’t make any money for my rent. Even though I had no idea how it would happen, I prayed that Jesus would provide the $700.”
As Nicole was recounting this story to me, incredulous, I interrupted her to ask- “how did you respond when she started to share this stuff with you?” We evangelicals don’t often hear the words “prayer” and “strip club” in the same sentence. Nicole smiled & laughed “What could I say? I prayed that Jesus would give me an open mind and asked her to tell me more!”
Dana shared with her how over the night God had provided for her needs- her first customer gave her an unusually large tip, her second customer came in and thanked her for advice she had given him that had helped his health improve- and gave her a huge tip. “At this point, I was only $300 away from having my whole rent need! But the most amazing thing was the last guy who came in for the night- his name was Jesus!” At this point I was trying to imagine the look on Nicole’s face as Dana told her that she had given a lapdance to a hispanic customer named Jesus.”Jesus gave me the last $300 I needed for my rent! It seems so clear how God was caring for me and gave me a sign that he wants to provide for me!”
As they prayed together and exchanged contact information, Nicole encouraged Dana to keep looking out for how Jesus (the Son of God, not the lapdance customer) was pursuing her. Since then she’s connected with other Christians and God willing is continuing to experience Jesus in both personal and unexpected ways.
Dana’s story reminded me just how often we forget that Jesus can reach anyone he wants to, wherever he wants to. As Christians we can wrongly assume that the only place Jesus hangs out is in churches, Bible studies or places where Amy Grant is played on the radio. He was always spending time with people that freaked out his disciples, like in John 4 where he essentially hangs out with a desperate housewife of Samaria. Even Jesus’ disciples are standing around asking themselves “why is Jesus hanging out with that kind of woman?” God grant us boldness to take risks and love like Jesus!
On the flip side, I think for people who aren’t Jesus followers it can be tempting to dismiss spiritually significant experiences or conversations without pursuing what God might be trying to say. God grant us openness to see where you are moving in our lives!