Last night my husband and I went to see one of my favorite bands of all time play at Benaroya Hall in Seattle. As we were walking to our car afterwards, we passed right by our favorite sushi restaurant. It was 10 PM, which meant that happy hour had just resumed in the bar, so we decided to go in for some half-price sushi and Japanese beer (our favorite date night, as it happens.)
The restaurant was pretty empty, and there were only a few people in the bar, so we were able to sit at our favorite table in the back. As we sat down, I noticed that there was a young woman sitting alone in the window seat reading a Bible. I pointed this out to Karl, and we gave each other a quizzical look. This is Seattle, folks. You do not usually see people sitting in nice sushi restaurants at 10 PM reading a Bible.
Karl and I chatted for a bit and placed our order, but I kept glancing over at the young woman, reading intently. I have been her. I know the hunger for scripture that is so strong that you simply want to eat it, like good sushi. While it has been a long time since I have read my Bible in a restaurant, I remember the years when I lived in New York City, when I read my Bible on the subway, in a restaurant, on the ferry, in a park. I wanted to encourage this young woman. I wanted to cheer her on. So I finally leaned over, tapped her on the shoulder, and said, “You’re reading my favorite book!”
This was the start of a beautiful conversation that encouraged Karl and me so much. This woman, I’ll call her A, made a decision a few weeks ago to follow Christ. She had just bought her first Bible earlier that day, and was starting at the very beginning. She said this has been an amazing few weeks, and she just wants to read and read and know more and more about God. I told her I completely understood how she felt. Then I asked her how she “got there.” How did she decide to follow Christ?
She shared that her boyfriend was imprisoned earlier this year, and in prison, he met a man who is serving a lifetime sentence. This man became a Christian in prison, and his life has completely changed, and now he devotes himself to ministering to his fellow inmates. He has led over 200 people on the inside to receive the gift of hope and new life in Christ, and he spends his days leading Bible studies and discipling men. Many of those men leave prison, forever changed. He will never leave prison, yet he has a vocation, a ministry, right there. He is changing the world from behind the walls of his cell. The impact of his life in prison is making the world a better place, as one by one men leave prison with a new, holy outlook on life.
A’s boyfriend will be in until next year, but she said the changes she has seen in him over the last couple of months has been amazing. A few weeks ago, he shared with her what had been going on, that he has become a follower of Christ. She said he explained the gospel to her in a way he knew she would understand, and she has been thinking about it for weeks, having other conversations with him. And then, she decided to accept it. She has committed herself to Christ and is now embarking on the journey of faith.
We talked for at least a half hour last night. It turns out she lives in the same area of Seattle we live in, and she was very excited when we invited her to visit our church. I also told her that I love to study the Bible and if she ever wants to get together to study or just talk through hard things about this journey, I’d love to do that. I gave her my contact info.
I saw in her eyes something that was so familiar: the blazing heart of a newborn Christian. This woman is on fire. She is like the woman at the well, who, having encountered Jesus Christ and been enveloped in his radical grace and mercy and kindness cannot wait to tell everyone about what has happened. She is like me when I was twenty-four, and Jesus met me in the depth of my brokenness and pain and lifted me up, giving me a new identity and living hope.
If you have been journeying with me through this Bible study, I want to thank you. I also want to apologize for the increasing infrequency of my posts. I’ve just come out of a really crazy couple of years of travel and work and ministry, and when I started this blog, I thought I’d be able to maintain it along with other writing deadlines and work commitments. That has not happened so much, but I’m back now. The next Mark post will come later this week, and as it happens, it will be about the women who followed Jesus most closely, ministering to him as he ministered to others. I’m excited about this next post.
Meanwhile, I’d love to hear from you. Do you remember those first few months or years after you fell in love with Jesus? When the fire was bright and new? Tell me about it. I’d love to hear.
Do you love the Bible? With all its confusing, hard parts, along with all its gloriously encouraging parts? I’d love to hear about it. When did you start reading the Bible? Where have you read your Bible? In the subway, like me? In a sushi bar, like A?
And one last thing: would you join me today in praying for this young woman and her boyfriend? I believe with all my heart in the power of the gospel to transform lives. I believe it first and foremost because of how it transformed my life, but also because of the stories I have heard from so many others. I once had a pastor who was fond of saying, “testimonies build faith,” and I know that is true. But I have also known of many people who accepted the good news with great joy, but later, the cares of the world, distractions and disappointments, quenched the fire. Would you join me in praying that this seed will remain in good soil? That her faith roots will grow deep, and that A and her boyfriend will be walking forward together in ever-increasing glory?
I look forward to hearing from you. And thanks for reading!!