A Christian (let’s call him Christian) walks into a coffee bar.
He sees a woman, head bent over her Bible, reading and taking notes. His heart leaps. Like calls to like as he realizes that, although he has never seen her before, she is his sister. His sister in Christ.
He hesitates at her table. When she looks up with an open and welcoming smile, he says, “I see you are reading the book of Matthew. Are you a believer?”
She responds with a happy affirmative, introduces herself as Christiana, and asks him to join her.
The conversation starts slowly:
“How long have you been saved?”
“What’s your favorite book/verse/passage?”
They dance around “Where do you go to church?” knowing the answer could lead to one of those family arguments about which sibling’s doctrine is better than the other. Or worse. What if the other is a heretic? A black sheep of the family?
After tiptoeing around the edges of the theological crevasse they realize that, in spite of some differences in non-essentials, what unites them is greater than what divides.
The conversation continues with gusto. They compare favorite sermon topics, debate merits of hymns or contemporary praise-n-worship songs, free-form services or liturgical, sprinkling or dunking, heads bowed or hands held high.
Family business taken care of, they get personal. Christiana describes how she was raised by atheists and just last year had a Damascus Road sort of conversion after seeing a billboard that read “Amazing Grace: Not just for bagpipes.”
Christian reveals that he is the son of believers, raised by believers, who were umpteenth-generation believers.
They again compare notes. Enthusiasm of the fresh convert or quiet, deep conviction of one raised in the faith.
They’ve reached the part of the conversation where they begin speaking of how great their mutual Father is. All the awesome stuff He does for them. Caramel macchiato and spiced chai latte grow lukewarm, then cold as brother and sister in Christ move from generals — Grace! Forgiveness! Eternity! — to specifics.
Christiana reveals at least a dozen times in the past year, when she thought she was out of money, envelopes with cash showed up in her mailbox.
Christian, whose hours at work have been slashed so drastically that he’s taken a second job flipping burgers, forces sincerity into his smile.
But then he remembers how, when his grandfather died, when his wife miscarried, he’d been filled with a supernatural peace that passed understanding. They had, he knows, died in Christ. He shares this with Christiana, whose unsaved parents died within a year of each other and she’s still coming to grips with the fact that she will never see them on either side of eternity.
But! She’d suffered from chronic back pain since a freak accident involving a teeter totter, an outsized friend and an irritable hummingbird. Her pastor led a group in prayer and laying on of hands and she was immediately free from the torment.
Christian feels his smile freeze into position. He’s been dealing with IBS and eczema since he was young, and no amount of sincere and faith-filled prayer had taken them away.
Conversation lags. They both make attempts to restore the fraternization they’d enjoyed at the beginning. Christiana tells of more miraculous interventions. Christian counters by affirming trust that grows in spite of thorns in one’s side.
Christiana bundles her Bible and notebook into her knapsack. She gives Christian a philadelphia sort of hug and says she’ll be praying for his eczema. (He’d chosen not to bring up his IBS.) Her Father had said that ‘all His promises have their yes in Christ!’ she adds brightly.
With a stiff upper lip Christian promises to pray too, that her faith will mature and she’ll soon be enjoying spiritual meat in addition to her milk diet.
As he hands her a pencil that rolled on the floor he thinks “The babies of the family get spoiled. Makes ‘em soft”
She thanks him and volunteers to clear their cups and napkins from the table, reflecting that the oldest kids in the family always seem overbearing.
They wave goodbye and go their separate ways, each one wondering, “Who does Father love best?”