We had been keeping a hawk eye on the tables in the bar for at least 20 minutes. Though we had our buzzer in hand there were at least four other groups of people keeping the same hawk eye out for a table on a busy friday night at the Cheesecake Factory. Though it wasn’t exactly the quiet atmosphere to catch up with each other the 30 flavors of Cheesecake glistening with carmel, strawberries and Oreos were too irresistible to pass up. So, Joey and I caught up about Christmas and New Years as people savored their enormous slices of cheesecake seated at the tables around us. Joey and I had met this summer when she found the MOPS (Mothers Of PreSchoolers) group online and joined us for a kiddo day at the splash park. Right away I thought- “this is someone I’ll get along with” as she smiled and laughed easily and seemed open to talk about most anything. Joey had a lot of questions about our church, Velocity which had begun a few years earlier. “Yeah- I remember one day I was at the pool with my son and someone started yelling “free ice cream!” and driving an ice cream truck around. I thought- what the heck! Free Ice cream!” Joey and her son got some of that free ice cream and were invited to check out Velocity Church as well. “Summer ended, a year or so passed and life got busy and I got pregnant again and never did end up checking out Velocity” she explained as we doled out juice boxes to our kids who were warming up in the sun, the water dripping onto their towels and pooling onto the hot cement.
Joey had heard about MOPS through a friend and decided to check it out and began coming to our meetings regularly in the fall. We painted mugs together for a MOPS craft, had a bonding moment on the playground when we both laughed about taking prozac (ha! ha! antidepressants! so funny!) where Joey shared that she felt like something was missing in her life and she felt like church could provide what she was looking for. One of the things that brings me most joy in life is to listen to people about where they’re at spiritually, to talk with them about their questions and offer any help in their spiritual journey. I love helping people to see Jesus for who he actually is instead of the stereotypes and misconceptions that so many believe about what it means to follow him.
At our last MOPS meeting for the fall I had planned to share a devotion that I actually ended up posting here on my blog. A bunch of us from MOPS had been praying regularly for Joey and hoped that she would be there to hear the message of Jesus- that he loves us and is able to restore our broken relationship with God and others. I was disappointed that Joey wasn’t there but shared the devotion anyway believing that even for people who have been following Jesus for awhile it’s good to hear the gospel and remember what our faith should be all about. Wonderfully a mom who had come to MOPS for the first time wanted to accept Jesus after hearing the gospel & we prayed together for her to begin her relationship with Jesus. Joey had read my blog afterwards and messaged me asking- “hey, I read your post. I’d love to know more about what you shared at MOPS.” I was thrilled!
That night at the Cheesecake factory I asked Joey more about her spiritual background when we finally got a table and ordered coconut macaroon cheesecake and carrot cake cheesecake. (I seriously do not know why I am torturing myself writing this after I just worked out! gah!) “My mom is an atheist and my husband isn’t interested in going to church. I’ve been to all sorts of churches- I went to temple with a friend and then a couple years later a Black Pentecostal church. I loved the gospel music!” Joey shared as we sipped warm kaluha coffee drinks that were welcome after a full week in a rare moment of a moms night out. I asked Joey if she had heard the basic message of what it meant to follow Jesus and when she responded that she hadn’t, I asked if I could share it with her. My friend Sarah who works for InterVarsity had just developed an app to share the story of Jesus using an iPhone and ever the fan of the iPhone I asked Joey if she wouldn’t mind me using it for the first time with her.
After we talked about the message of Jesus we had looked at in the app, Joey continued to share about her family and desire to know more about God. I asked Joey- “is this something you want for your life, what I just shared about Jesus?” Looking at me directly with her hands folded and half-eaten cheesecake pushed to the side Joey smiled and said “yes! this is what I want!” That night the Cheesecake Factory was a holy place as Joey prayed to begin following Jesus. We talked about the next steps of how to grow her relationship with Jesus and she downloaded the app onto her android (yes, the app is available for android too!) “People are going to give me crap about becoming a Christian” she said as she smiled and shook her head. “What about becoming a Christian?” I asked recalling a facebook thread on her page about whether Christians actually voted democrat. Joey went on “Well, I have some pretty liberal views and even though I’m fine with other people disagreeing with me I just don’t know if I can go along with some of the more conservative things.”
I smiled at her- pointing back to the phone where we had just looked at the message of Jesus together. “Joey, the amazing thing about following Jesus is that it doesn’t matter to him how you vote, how you dress, what your past has been like or the things you’re struggling with now. He loves you, just as you are. You don’t have to clean up or do any special thing to accept him. He wants you to become the person God has created you to be and care for this world in the way that only you can.” Joey’s eyes opened wide- “really?!” I smiled and nodded- “yep.” She leaned back in her seat, “Huh. Why don’t more people know about this?” I smiled even wider- “that’s the best part Joey- we get to tell other people about what it really means to follow Jesus! And we get to follow him in all the diverse ways he created us to be.” She nodded and tucked her phone into her purse- “yeah, if I saw you across the restaurant I wouldn’t think- she looks like a Christian.” Though some people might have been offended by this, I cracked up and responded “people think you have to completely change who you are when you become a Christian but Jesus knows I’m a goofy person who loves fashion and pop culture and that’s fine with him! He loves how he created me and he loves how he created you!”
Joey and I finished our drinks and headed home to our husbands and sleeping kids. As I drove home I thought about her question- “why don’t more people know about this?” after I had shared about Jesus’ unconditional love. It made me hope and pray that Joey would be a Jesus follower that shared his story with others.
You might feel like it would be difficult for you to do something like this- but it’s not. Check out the training video I created with InterVarsity for some simple and practical ways you can share the story of Jesus with others.