Revelations: A toast
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BY JENNIFER PREYSSOn a recent Sunday evening, I joined a girlfriend at Buffalo Wild Wings for an after-work beer. As girls often do when they get together for drinks, we spent the evening laughing, poking fun of men and chatting about our future.
We lounged on the patio, feet propped comfortably in the empty chairs at our table and sipped on our cold, girly beers.
To appease my friend, an avid football fan, I pretended to be interested in the football game broadcasting from the many flat screens hanging from the patio ceiling.
If you've ever wondered if a beautiful woman who loves football and beer exists, I can assure you, she does. Why my friend isn't snagged by some fantastic man, is a puzzle I'm still trying to figure out.
Unlike many of my girlfriends, I'm not a huge fan of beer or football. I suppose I just never got into it. But there's something about spending a no-frills evening with a girl who loves football that seems to lessen my prissy-ness. And I'm OK with that. In fact, I adhere to a strict policy that it's healthy to loosen one's reigns every now and then.
As the evening (and laughter) progressed, I suppose we caught the attention of another patron hanging out on the patio.
He came over, sunglasses on, and eventually sat down at our table and ordered a beer. Sunglasses Man was intruding somewhat on girl time, but we decided he may be an interesting addition to the conversation. A few moments later, his beer arrived and the three of us sat together and chatted leisurely for the next hour.
I was sipping the froth from a second beer, when my girlfriend decided she was ready to call it a night.
And I wasn't far behind her. I'd had my one drink for the night, and that was plenty.
After she left, Sunglasses Man got up from the table to walk me out.
"What do you write about anyway, I guess I didn't really ask you," Sunglasses Man asked, noting my earlier comment about writing for a living.
"I write about religion and faith issues," I said.
As if I'd told the most hysterical joke, Sunglasses Man broke into laugher and asked, "Really?"
I smiled, and nodded my head.
"So you're in to that religion stuff," he asked.
"Religion stuff," I repeated. "Yeah, I guess you could say I'm into it."
Words swelled up in my brain as I headed toward my car. How could anyone fit all the dynamics, departments, philosophy, history, love, passion, life, death, atonement, sacrifice, past, present, future ... into two blind words; "religion stuff?"
Sunglasses Man, laughed again at my response, and glanced back at our table.
Turning back to me, he asked, "So, you're a Christian, and you're out here tonight, drinking with us?"
My mind once again swelled with inner dialogue. I never said I was a Christian, but even so, at what point in the night did I do anything that would be perceived as irreligious? Since when is drinking a beer anti-Biblical? Quickly examining the past hour, I noted my behavior to myself.
"I had one beer, a few sips of another. I wasn't drunk, I wasn't dancing on table tops. I wasn't dressed provocatively. I wasn't cursing, or offering to take strange men home with me for the night. I was just out, with my girlfriend, having a beer," I thought.
I suppose Sunglasses Man's comment bothered me because I genuinely make an effort not to judge others. I don't always participate in some of the things my friends do, but that doesn't mean I'm offended by their behavior. Most of the time when I look at people, whether I know them or not, all I see is God's beautiful child. They may not always see me that way, but I'm not especially troubled by that. My role in this life is to honor God, and love his people - all his people - no matter what. And that remains true even when they don't love me.
So, I guess in that moment, the moment where Sunglasses Man questioned my love for God, my love for others, and perhaps even the seriousness in which I take my faith, I felt deeply judged. I felt like a big Christian failure, who didn't do a good enough job of showing him my heart.
I stood there for what seemed like 10 full minutes, and experienced a profound inner conflict. Should I be offended that he assumed I was a hypocrite? Should I be relieved that he was able to keep company with a Christian who can be a normal person without speaking Christian-ese, or ashamed to admit their faith when asked? Or should I be sad that he just didn't get me, and what I'm about - an openly flawed Christian who doesn't seek to draw lines with anyone.
I admit to you today I'm a hypocrite. The only reason I go to church is because I need God to continue to mold me into a better person. I don't go to church because I think I'm holier, or better than you. I recognize that anything good in me at all is God, and everything else is just my own nonsense.
Take it or leave it, that's me. Maybe 10 years from now, God will have matured me into someone else, but for now this is who I am.
I hope me and Sunglasses Man will get to talk about that "religion stuff" in greater detail another night, and I'll have an opportunity to show him there's at least one lady out there who loves God and accepts him, no matter what. And maybe, at the end of the night, we can hold up our beer glasses and toast to a new friendship.
Jennifer Preyss is a re- porter for the Victoria Advocate. You can reach her at 361-580-6535 or firstname.lastname@example.org.