We sat at a coffee shop in Banff, Canada. I nibbled on a simple salad with walnuts, beets, and goat cheese. Gotta eat granola when you’re hanging in the trendiest national park in Canada, eh?
I love beets. There I said it. Don’t judge.
My dinner companions were a bit of a divine miracle. We had met the week earlier in Calgary at an incredible five-day deep dive into the beauty of communion and the gospel. I was excited to meet them after overhearing their accents. They were from England, which is where I lived growing up.
I introduced myself and we shared our British-in-common-ness. They had been to this program before, and were excited to be back. They loved the teaching on fasting, in particular, and quickly mentioned they didn’t really come for the Jesus stuff, but loved what was shared about the science and health benefits of fasting. I enjoyed my conversation with them and loved their honesty and openness.
Over the course of the week together we discovered we were all heading to Banff for the weekend and attempted to make plans to meet up and have dinner while we were there. Unfortunately, despite exchanging numbers, neither of our foreign phones would call the other in Canada.
So off I went, figuring God would have to sort it out. My first day in Banff I made repeated attempts to visit Lake Louise, and in the midst of wandering around trying to find a shuttle bus that would take me to the lake, my British friends’ car just happened to pull up right beside me as I was exiting a parking lot on foot. I knocked on the window and said, “hello.”
My friend in the passenger seat was undone, “How in the world? I can’t believe this – we tried to call –“
“I know, I did as well, with no luck. My phone wouldn’t make the call.” I shared.
They were heading to the town I was staying at that night and we decided to try using an app to connect that evening. It had been successful with someone else here, so it was worth a shot.
But again, despite our efforts, the app wasn’t reliable. They tried to stop by my hotel, but I hadn’t gotten back from my adventures that day. When I did return, I received an assortment of messages on my app that led me to believe they had already gone for dinner and I was too late. So I decided to walk to town to find my own food.
Which is when I ran straight into my two British friends taking pictures by a moose statue a few blocks down the road, to all of our surprise.
We strolled together further until we found a nice coffee shop and grabbed a table. I was really interested to hear about their time up at Lake Louise (which I still had no luck making it to that day) and about their time at the conference the week prior. I was curious to hear their thoughts and what they took away, since so much of the focus was on “the Jesus stuff”.
One of the ladies expressed how much she enjoyed it – and that her eyes were getting better all weekend. We had prayed for healing during the conference – and apparently, it was still working. I loved watching this joy wash over her face as she shared about her eyes healing and her surprise that we would meet up not once, but twice rather “serendipitously” amongst the crowds here in Banff. I was in awe too. I felt to my core it was a divine set up. And I wanted to share and celebrate that.
But just before I could, the other friend chimed in with her thoughts and reflections, all of which were prefaced by a very clear declaration. Her journey in life had led her to counsel many people, particularly those who had been hurt by the church and even abused by clergy. She wanted nothing to do with a faith that caused pain to those she cared for. She believed in love, and a spiritual reality, but Jesus was a broken box for these ideals. It felt a very deliberate announcement, in case I got any crazy ideas about trying to convince her about Jesus being a key player in the love, joy, and restoration of the world.
I’m not much for debate or trying to convince anyone of anything, really, but I wanted to say something. I really wanted to say something. Like that I didn’t think it strange for her to come to such a conclusion after walking with people who had been so hurt and how deeply sad their stories made me too. Or that God hated that suffering and hypocrisy more than we did. Or a million other things about the misrepresentation of God by broken people and painful journeys. I wanted to stand up and defend my Dad, to be honest. That’s not you, I know it’s not you – what do you want me to say, Jesus? I could feel all the things stirring up inside me, when He answered:
I don’t want you to say anything. I want you to listen.
Wait, what? Jesus, don’t you want me to say something; she thinks you’re a piece of work? What about the truth setting people free and all that? And He responded again:
I want you to listen.
So I held my tongue as He continued:
I want her to see that I am the God who listens.
So I did. I listened. I listened to the painful and the beautiful. And I cherished her sharing both. I celebrated the dreams she shared and the stories of how she loved people and the ways she sacrificed to care for them.
I knew there was another at the table that night. One who leaned in to listen to this one He loved, teaching me all the while how to do the same.
He didn’t need defending. His love needed demonstrating.
And sometimes love simply listens.