I came for the coffee bean. You know, the one they put on the top of your coffee drink when you leave the corner stand.
This place was my favorite, but eventually I am not going to lie…I became irritated by one of their young, blonde, baristas.
Maybe it was because she rolled her eyes and turned her back on me, each and every time I came for coffee. And for someone who struggles with people-pleasing, her scowling couldn’t help but irritate me.
This morning, I open up Galatians; knowing in my own soul how easy it would be to let feelings, or my own interests be truth, instead of the Bible.
“That the truth of the Gospel might continue to be [persevered] for you [in it’s purity].” Galatians 2:5
And I am all about this gospel, this message of a Savior coming for all. This sacrificial life that bends low, meets needs, and loves people unconditionally, right where they are…
Yet, I have to admit, the cold shoulder of the blonde girl at the coffee stand, did really bother me.
Months later, I went to that same coffee stand and ran across that same blonde-haired barista who served me coffee regularly, with a sneer.
And I’ll admit, instead of thinking, “This is a great opportunity for evangelism”…
I was more likely reciting silently, “Ugh, I just want my coffee, and I don’t want an eye-rolling teenager to be the one handing it to me.”
But then, something changed one day when I went to that coffee-stand. Summer was finished, and the craziness of my life was slowly dwindling…
Sitting patiently in my car, the blonde made my coffee, and there I saw it for the first time. There, across her forearm…
Something I expected only happy people, friendly Christian’s to where.
And it taught me not to judge, to look at people more than skin deep, and to ask God for His heart for people, before drawing my own conclusions.
There, on her forearm was a scripture, and a dark cross staring straight back at me…
As if inquisitively, beckoning me to His throne-room, asking me if I’d exchange my thinking….For His.
Philippines 4:8 in dark letters and a cross, tattooed obviously…on an arm I couldn’t ignore.
“I like your tattoo,” I interjected to this blonde girl who had tossed her head and rolled her eyes at me far too many times.
And those words? Those humbled words of question. That one phrase, seemed to explode away the iron door separating lives...
It was then, she looked me in my eyes. For the very first time in the over a year I had been coming to her coffee-stand…She wasn’t rushed or annoyed, busy or disinterested.
Instead, she stopped, stared, looked into my soul and told me, “My mom made me get this tattoo”….
So, I took the bait, and charged forward inquisitively, “Really? Why?”
At this point, I truly cared about this link that was thread between her and me, this tie between mom and daughter, the story behind why any parent would “force” their child to get a tattoo…
And she went on, that blonde girl, wanting to share her story with the woman she avoided, frequently coming through her drive through…
Dark, intersecting lines. The cross. And dark ink, stating, Philippians 4:13.
And if His cross on an arm can do that? If one mark, one branding, one bold declaration can tare down walls and make us love someone we might have not otherwise considered…
How much more can His living cross connect us? How much more should His heart build a bridge over trenches between hate and division, plaguing our society today?
After all, don’t we need more bridges, more walkways, and less division permeating this increasingly, “us” vs. “them” society?
More verses attesting, man’s knowledge is nothing? His truth astounding man’s comprehension? His love reaching farther than any mortal could formulate….
His way, the solution for each and every one of our needs.
“Cancer.” My new, coffee stand friend attests. “My mom had cancer and she forced both me and my sister to get this tattoo.”
Regret plowed through my snobbery and rejection. I was sick with the judgement I had been quietly harboring, this offense I had been carrying…
It hadn’t been personal; the looks, the distance, the eye-rolling, her apparent disdain and disrespect. Who was I, taking this girl’s responses personally?
She didn’t hate me…She hated CANCER. And who of us DOESN’T…hate cancer?
I had been far too near-focused, too worldly purposed, arrogant in my expecting better service, when I never even knew the whole story.
Who was I to think I deserve anything from anybody, let alone a young girl who had been in survival mode during her own mother’s horrific disease?
- Forgive me for my selfishness.
- Forgive me for my judgement and self-righteousness.
- Forgive me for seeing only flesh-surface, instead of behind the presentation and into Your very own heart….
- Forgive me for not asking for YOUR holy perspective, before jumping to a conclusion I create.
And I remember when I stumbled into a Bible Study years ago. It was a small gathering. People there all knew each other.
I wasn’t warm, or pleasant. I
wanted, no, I needed people to come love on me…just like the barista at the coffee stand.
Turns out, I had just left an extremely hard church situation, and my silence was evidence of my own harbored pain. But no one knew that.
Instead, they seemed unpleasant and cold. I left church understanding why sadly, most people feel more loved on a bar-stool than a church pew.
I was hurting. expecting grace, needing people to love me past my protective exterior, but that never happened. And truth be told, I went away from church bitter that day.
Yet, we can let others behaviors harden and jade us, or we can show the world our crosses, reveal to them our brokenness and be careful not to judge, jumping to conclusions…
Because after all, who of us doesn’t know how it feels to be mistreated?
I stared at the coffee-girl’s verse, inked along her arm, like a bridge that carries us between religion and real people, like a wave between tough humans and hard situations…
I read further in Galatians this morning. Paul tells us, he didn’t care or not if people came with grandiose, self-importance.
Furthermore, Paul elaborated, (Gal. 2:6) “God is not impressed with the positions that men hold and He is not partial or recognizes no external distinction.”
After all, haven’t we all been the broken, and haven’t we all been the self-righteous religious, thinking, the world owes us something?
- Forgive us for not joining together as one.
- Forgive us for needing a physical representation of what you have already done.
- Forgive us for not seeing your sacrifice on the cross, daily, in our very own lives, and in the lives of others.
Brand it to the forefront of our minds. Let your heart compel us to love until walls come down between us and other people.
“I can do all things [which He has called me to do] through Him who strengthens and empowers me [to fulfill His purpose—I am self-sufficient in Christ’s sufficiency; I am ready for anything and equal to anything through Him who infuses me with inner strength and confident peace.]” Phil. 4:13
This was the verse, my coffee selling friend had tattooed to her arm that day. It turns out, my daughter went to school with this same barista, and her mother did have cancer.
It was a hard battle, but somehow she survived it…
And in the midst of her fight, her mom wanted her to have the reminder, no matter what cancer might bring, God’s promise was, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.”
Maybe I need a tattoo too? A reminder not to judge. A confirmation that His strength is all I need when people and the world, just don’t treat me right…
After all, isn’t it just like God to use, a hard-hearted barista, to show me, we must keep loving, even if it’s just not easy.
A cross. A question. A bridge tearing down strangers. A smile that says I am for you. We are all in this together.
His cross, always the answer. We are all struggling with something…let’s let love draw us together…
And judgement, never pull us apart.
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