Being in treatment for cancer was like starring in my very own reality show 24/7: all cancer, all the time. I don't want this blog to be like that. So today, on Jesus' birthday, I thought I'd share a meditation about spotting him unexpectedly.
Jesus sat one table over from me at Steak and Shake in western Indiana on a trip I took a few years ago. I wasn’t expecting him there, which was of course foolish of me. At first he didn’t look like Jesus—big, beefy, and blond, wearing a plain gray t-shirt and blue jeans. Watching him, however, I realized his true identity.
After I ordered, a couple came in and sat down next to each other in a booth, but they weren’t lovebirds. He was angry, speaking coarsely and harshly to her, disturbing the restaurant's family atmosphere. He personified my father’s descriptive phrase, “He looked rough.” She was told not to say another word, and she did not, but sat blocked in and cowed.
The manager on duty, a twenty-something young woman, delivered Jesus’ meal, and they began quietly to discuss the couple. She didn’t want to interfere in someone else’s business, she said. “They’re bothering others,” Jesus said. “If you want to confront him, I’ve got your back.”
The man and woman went outside together, where the tirade continued, with the man poking the air, though he hadn’t touched the woman. But both Jesus and the manager were watching. We all hoped he wouldn’t hit her. The manager debated calling the police number for domestic violence; Jesus didn’t remember the number off the top of his head.
Without physical violence, the man re-entered the restaurant and sat down. The woman stayed outside long enough to smoke a cigarette. I found myself praying for her, and for the man who treated her that way. When she came in, their food arrived at the table, and amity seemed restored. I went back to reading.
When I finished my meal, I stopped by the table where Jesus sat to thank him. I noticed that his blue eyes were bloodshot, as if he’d been gazing at far distances through smoke.
He waved away my thanks. “You don’t know about people,” he told me. “That could have been the first fight they ever had.”
I didn’t think so, but it was typical of Jesus to give people the benefit of the doubt.
“Everybody makes mistakes. You never know.”
I realized I was in the presence of the Jesus of John 8, the one who just doodled in the dust while accusations against a woman flew around. That Jesus finally looked at the crowd of men and said, “He that is without sin, let him cast the first stone.”
In the twenty-first century Jesus said, “I’ve been coming to this restaurant for fifteen years. These girls work harder than anyone I know. She didn’t need that kind of hassle.”
I was tearing up, and thought it better to go before I started blubbering all over Jesus. I thanked him again and left, praying that he was—as he so often has been—right about someone.