Sunday, April 25, 2010

Table talk

It’s past 10 pm, and a group of about twelve girls from church have finally arrived, with some herding skillfulness, at Mama’s Mexican Kitchen in Belltown. Sushi bistros that were much too tiny to accomodate a group our size, several pizza joints, and an overpriced tapas bar were bypassed after my persuasive vote for the cheaper Mexican diner finally won the group over. Plus, I was at the head of the herd and I knew how to navigate the distance from our church at 1st and Clay to the restaurant at 2nd and Bell. Mad skills, I’m telling you. We settled down at two adjacent tables in one of the many eclectic rooms at Mama’s, and the group relaxed into the laid back energy of the Belltown joint.

At my table sat five other girls (I call us girls because I just can’t bring myself to call us women; it sounds way too adult for my taste). I hadn’t known any of them longer than a day, but I liked them already. Now, if you’re ever wondering what a small group of unmarried girls who love Jesus and who generally lean more toward a conservative bent (though I admittedly hate labels) talk about in the latter hours of the night, over chips and salsa, when no eligible bachelors are around, I’ll let you in on a little secret. It starts with a B and ends with O-Y-S. I haven’t had one of these conversations for awhile, seeing as most of my friends are married, so I just went with the flow, observing the youthful sparkles in the eyes of my new friends as they talked about their hopes and dreams for the future, about what they want in life, or specifically, in a man.

One of the girls threw this question on the table with a soft giggle: “Ok, so what is the most attractive thing in a guy?”

This elicited a playful, collective sigh and then a groan. “Just one thing? That’s way too hard,” we protested.

“Just choose one,” the girl who initiated this cajoled back at us.

Round robin, we circled the table awaiting everyone’s reply. One of the girls described a guy who is a true gentleman, the kind you can tell by the way he not only treats you but other women, that he is genuine and respectful. The next girl said she wanted the same thing. That he knows how to treat a woman. Heads bobbed in emphatic agreement. Another girl described a guy who is sensitive, more heads bobbing. And another, a man who really fears God, because she said, a man who fears God will treat you well. I saw a theme emerging here.

When it came to my turn, the group fell silent, waiting to hear my answer. I didn’t exactly know what to say, having long since thrown out my “list” of things I wanted in exchange for this sense that I would know what I wanted and needed when I met him. So I talked about the first thing that came to my mind, how I wanted a guy I found interesting and exciting, a guy who wants to live the kind of life I want to live, not the status quo. I think I started rambling at this point. “I don’t meet a lot of guys who capture my interest,” I admitted. “When I hear what they want in life, I often become bored. It’s just like everyone else. And not that it’s bad, but I guess it’s just not what I want. I want to live this life with God on the edge, ready to go anywhere, do anything, not just live comfortably. Maybe I just don’t meet those guys very often.” From here the conversation turned toward the importance of guys who have “a plan” in life and are actually doing something to move toward that plan. At this point my mind trailed off someplace else. Perhaps because I no longer see myself as a person with a “five year plan,” so I can’t really relate. But perhaps because I wasn’t really feeling the conversation to begin with.

My mind trailed off to the message I’d heard that night at church, the one about how those of us who are part of God’s family shouldn’t be uncomfortable entering into anyone else’s world, no matter how different it is from ours. That’s what Jesus modeled for us. It was a good message, but what I was thinking about during the whole talk was my new friend who was seated beside me at church. A few weeks ago, I met Joey, with the pink and yellow and blue hair, the long extensions, the fake eyelashes, the makeup and the sparkly decals on his face. He’s been coming to our church longer than I have, but he said no one really knows him and he doesn’t really know them either. I've been trying to get to know him. Throughout the message, I was troubled, wondering who has really tried to enter into Joey’s world. I’d like to, I’m really curious to hear his story, to listen to him and know who he is and walk beside him as he’s figuring out this stuff with Jesus; however, wisdom tells me a young woman friend isn’t what this lonely, 50-something, former drag queen needs.

So as we’re sitting at the table talking about boys, I’m thinking about Joey and about how I long for Christian community to be something more than going out to eat after church or hanging out at someone’s house. I love these things, don’t get me wrong - they’re wonderful aspects of community. But they’re not everything. They don’t include people like Joey. And I think if Jesus were hanging out with us, He’d put His arm around Joey and walk with him down the street to the restaurant, sitting beside him at the table and asking him about his life. Or maybe just being in Jesus’ presence, having this unfamiliar sense of being utterly known without having to say a word, would just be enough, like it was for that Samaritan woman who encountered Jesus at the well. Either way I know that, while God’s family (as in the Church) has so many beautiful attributes, we are still very much a work-in-progress until we act and think and love like Jesus. I have no desire to criticize the Church - since I, too, am a living, breathing, imperfect member of it - but I long for the day when I, when we, are living and moving about with the fullness of Christ’s heart pounding in our chests.

So maybe that is my true answer, that is what’s most attractive to me in a man. Someone who, when I observe his life, I see the passionate heart of Christ beating in him as he loves on people. Not in perfection, but in ever-changing growth. I hope that is what he would see in me, too. But the honest to God truth is, I’d rather not talk about it around a dinner table; I’d much rather live it.

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