The Long Game

I think it’s been about three years since we changed our home bar from the small town south of us to the Big City.  Our new bar is not far from home, just up the Mesa.  It’s small and cozy, with two of the best Diamond bar tables in town, refelted regularly and taken care of first by the long-time owner and now by the folks who bought it from him a few years ago.

At least three years that we’ve been shooting pool every other Tuesday night in that bar.  And longer than that, even, that my teammate and I – who also lives nearby – have come there on Monday nights to practice.  You get to know some of the regulars in that length of time – at least by face or voice.  And you get to know the bartenders.

One of them is usually getting off shift about the time we arrive on Monday nights.  She hangs out and drinks and talks.  She has a loud voice that permeates the bar, and between her voice and the myriad tattoos on her arms, she’s a force of nature who doesn’t intend to be ignored.  She holds forth her opinion on all matters, and there has been more than one occasion that I’ve heard her  leading the charge in mocking discussions of religion.

It’s been at least three months since she and her best friend, one of the top shooters in the league, got into a theological conversation of sorts with me.  Three months since she heard that I was a pastor and I invited them both over to Sunday night gathering at our place to talk.  But it was a pretty boozy night for them three months ago, and they certainly don’t remember that conversation or their promise to visit on Sunday sometime.

So it was with a great amount of shock  that this woman accosted me – in a friendly sort of way – last night.  You’re a priest? she exclaimed, clearly not remembering our discussion months ago.  Her friend had told her again, probably just that afternoon, and this time she remembered.  I’m an atheist, she offered quickly, and I nodded and smiled.  You’re a priest but you drink tequila and shoot pool?  She apologized for her colorful language, and I was surprised to realize the apology was at least somewhat real.  There was at least a kernel of genuine concern that she might be a cause of offense to me.  I smiled and reassured her.

Pray for my friend M, she quickly asked.  She’s got cancer and it’s bad.  I have leukemia, but pray for her.  I told her I would.  We reiterated the details several times over the course of the next two hours as she would walk by.  And I’ve prayed this week.  Prayed at the request of an atheist whose love for her friend is stronger than her rejection or distrust of God.  Who is willing to take whatever help might be had.

Three to five years we’ve known of each other in the confines of this small neighborhood bar, but only now does it click, only now has it seemed to register not just the face but part of the backstory.  Perhaps a priest who shoots pool and drinks tequila will be willing to listen to a prayer request from an atheist for her friend.  Perhaps  he’s crazy enough to actually follow through and pray – not just for M but for this woman as well.  Even though she didn’t ask for it and recognizes at some level that it might be wrong of her to expect it.

So pray for healing for M.  For the opportunity for more discussions, for a miracle that might cause a re-evaluation on multiple levels from this bartender.  And for wisdom to know how to be and what to say if that should happen.  Remember in the process that the Holy Spirit uses you – who you are, in the circumstances you find yourself, and you can never be sure what that will mean or look like, let alone set a timetable for it.

One Response to “The Long Game”

  1. What Are We Really Mad About? | Living Apologetics Says:

    […] night I was  able to follow up with the bartender I wrote about a while back, the atheist who asked for prayers for her friend suffering from breast cancer.  She remembered me […]

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