For several months I had felt a sort of darkness creeping into my spiritual life. It began with a slight feeling of depression accompanied by questions like, “Why isn’t the Lord working in my life?” and “What is wrong with me that I don’t feel His presence?” Like a cancer, this stain on my soul silently grew until I began questioning the very fabric of my faith. I knew God existed, but was increasingly unsure whether He knew or cared about me personally. After all, He is pretty busy holding all of our reality together, right? The lyrics of an old song by Natalie Imbruglia kept haunting me and I think they illustrate perfectly how I felt:
‘I’m all out of faith, this is how I feel.
I’m cold and I’m ashamed, bound and broken on the floor.’
It was an ugly place I was wandering in. I felt beaten, confused and spiritually shredded. At a certain point, I continued to pray for some sign of His presence even though I truly felt it would do no good. But, as I told Jesus, I had nowhere else to turn.
Now this is where things get downright scandalous, so ladies, get out your fans and try not to pass out from righteous indignation and shock.
Jesus spoke to me at the bar.
Yes indeedy, ladies and gentlemen, I did say ‘the bar’, as in tavern or drinking establishment. You know, ‘…a wretched hive of scum and villainy,’ to borrow the immortal words of Obi Wan Kenobi. Now before you reach for your stones to properly chastise me, allow me to explain.
An old friend of mine from high school whom I had only seen once in the past 20 years was coming to town and wanted to see me and another old friend over drinks. Now, I am what author Liz Curtis Higgs calls an FBG (Former Bad Girl), so that kind of social gathering was not foreign to me. However, being a child of the Most High God (even though I didn’t particularly feel like it), I knew that I should not participate in that age-old imbibing social ritual. Not because I am above such things, (heavens no!!) but because I know too well how easy it is to don the old skin of my FBG self. So I found what seemed to be a reasonable solution—I offered to be the ‘designated driver’. This way, I could visit with my old friends while not being tempted to check my faith or good sense at the door.
The plan was sound and I enjoyed catching up with my friends. I have always been a people watcher and this night offered a visual feast. I observed glassy-eyed people bobbing on the dance floor. I can only assume that they meant to be dancing, but in reality, they resembled zombies; masses of the undead, like on ‘Thriller’ only less cool. I saw garishly clothed and coifed middle-aged women striving desperately to appear years younger. Attentive men with hopeful faces were keeping their glasses full. People of all ages were escaping their emptiness in forced gaiety and glass after glass of liquid forgetfulness.
I had been to many such places in my past, but this night it was as if a veil had been lifted from my eyes. I saw darkness and despair. I saw broken bleeding people in desperate need of the Savior. I felt an unexpected love and a deep compassion for those people. I experienced, for a brief moment, a tiny taste of what Christ must feel when He looks upon us, the whole sorry human race. Our Jesus looks upon us with immeasurable love and great compassion, in spite of our ugliness and woundedness.
I went home in the wee hours that night, awed and humbled. With perfect clarity I could see how different my life is from the places I’d just been. My life: my family, friends, church, co-op; all of it is bathed in light. We have Jesus and so we live in light, love, hope, peace and joy. Even when we don’t ‘feel’ it, even when we neglect to reach out and claim those things which are rightfully ours, they are still here simply because Jesus is here.
How humbling that my God would take a moment amidst spinning the planets to meet me in the bar and remind me that He does indeed see and care.
The words of the Master himself say it best: “I have come into the world as light, so that whoever believes in me may not remain in darkness. (John 12:46 ESV) May we never lose sight of the light in which we live. And may each of you be given a fresh vision of His light in your life.