Before I knew Christ, I spent a couple of years as a bartender. I never really felt completely comfortable in that environment. Honestly, it was an odd place for me to be because I was never much into drinking. However, I had gone through a divorce, was a single mom, and had started a new business. I seen it as an opportunity to help me support my family and my new business.
I remember feeling sick to my stomach every time I was there though. I remember the emptiness I felt inside as I’d watch people coming in to have a good time. It wasn’t just the fact that they were drinking though. I didn’t see alcohol as an evil unless it was in excess. Watching the people come in having such a good time, and there I was … working, serving, and something inside me just didn’t feel right. I felt like I needed to be home. Like I needed to be with my kids. But then, I was divorced, so there weren’t any kids to go home to anyway. There wasn’t a relationship at that time either. It was a very lonely time in my life.
I tried to make the most of it. Somehow, I recognized that there were many other people in my same predicament. They didn’t have anyone at home and had this intense loneliness so it seemed that this was the gathering place to run away from the emptiness. Oddly, when these lonely souls walked in and I had a chance to lift up their spirits with my friendly conversation and a smile, it somehow made my nights working there bearable. Of course, those conversations were always early in the night. As the night progressed, the scene would change to something very dogmatic and ugly.
As I look back, I remember a comment made one night by one of my local patrons. He was a regular and his comment stuck with me. This was a young man who could have been my little brother. I could tell he drank a little too much, but I really liked this kid. I could see that he had a lot of potential. I would often spend my time encouraging him like I was his big sister. On this particular night, he was a bit toasted. He had just been telling me his troubles and out of the middle of nowhere, he stops and looks at me and says, ‘You don’t belong here.’
Somehow, in the middle of his misery, he recognized something in me that I was really feeling. I didn’t belong there. I knew it, but my circumstances were such that I didn’t have many options. It wasn’t but a year or so after that I was finally at a point where I could walk away from that environment. Shortly thereafter, I had my encounter with Christ.
But this isn’t a story so much about me as it is about this young man. I don’t know where this young man is now, but I’m fairly certain that he doesn’t frequent the bars anymore. I know that by the time I quit, he had stopped coming in. In hindsight, I believe that night Jesus stepped inside this young man’s soul and spoke not only to me, but also this young man. I’m fairly certain that those words he spoke to me that night resonated within himself. How could he recognize that I didn’t belong without seeing that he didn’t either?
I know now that this was a stirring in both our souls. A stirring and a drawing from Jesus. A stirring and a drawing to come out of the darkness and towards Jesus. This is what gives me so much confidence in our God. He doesn’t give up on us. He shows up in our lives when we least expect it. He teaches us the way of love.
He will never lead you astray. It’s us who get ourselves lost along the way. He knows just when to show up and tell us, ‘you don’t belong here.’