I could have been offended by her words—some might say I should have been. After all, what she attached to Jesus’ name was crude and vulgar, only softened by the word “cool.” Her words were far removed from the beautiful ones we use to describe Jesus—Savior, Lord, King.
Some context: I knock on the motel door of my friend Jeff.** Raised Catholic, a believer in Jesus, but living a life typical of an East Colfax motel dweller. Ragged, on the edge, bad habits, barely afloat. He raises his vodka bottle in greeting, then introduces me to Molly.** I have not met her. She is cute in a street-urchin way, a bit ragged, in her 20’s, hair covering half her face.
Jeff introduces me as a pastor—she quickly hides her vodka bottle. Truth is, she looks like she wants to crawl through the wall behind her. Clearly not enthused to see a pastor! Jeff quickly defends me, “He’s not like that. He’s here to love us, not judge us.” I read the signs—she’s had bad experiences with church people, likely filled with condemnation.
Quickly, she speaks, smirk on her face: “Christians don’t like me. I ask hard questions that they can’t answer.” To prove her point, she says, “Like the Trinity for instance.” Jeff jumps in, eager to answer. Wobbly from vodka, he launches into his Catholic schoolboy explanation of the Trinity. He nailed it! Even stone cold sober with lots of theological training, I couldn’t have done much better. The Trinity is, after all, deep and mysterious.
She listens, then shifts gears, now inquisitive, peering at me from under her hair and asks, “Why are you here?” I pause, feeling the environment, seeing the ratty room, seeing them, their vodka bottles.
Again, Jeff jumps in, eager to explain our work—showing up, loving people. She listens, but when he pauses, says to him, “I want to know what he thinks.” Jeff quiets, she turns to me and I speak: “When Jesus was on earth, He went to the darkest places, where people’s lives were the hardest and most broken.”
She speaks, tone now soft— “You mean places like East Colfax?” “Yes,” I say simply, “and He didn’t start with judgment, He started with loving people where they were and as they were.” She sits quietly, thinking, vodka bottle on the floor, no longer looking like she wants to escape. I go on: “The reason I am here is simple. I am a follower of Jesus and if He came to places like this, then we who follow Jesus should as well. Like Jesus, we first come to love people.”
She sits back, body relaxed, whimsical half smile forming on her face, still peering and says boldly: “Jesus was a cool mother-f*****r!” How do you respond to that? Like I said I could have, maybe should have, been offended. Truth is, I loved it. I howled with laughter and said to her, “I am going to quote you on that!”
Here is why I loved it: She had gotten a glimpse of the real Jesus. When we started, her picture of Jesus and His people were based on getting your life together: Put down your vodka, act nice, show up for church. Maybe then Jesus will love you, at least a little bit. Now, she saw the most outrageous of truths: Jesus comes to us where we are and loves us as we are.
Molly**, peering out from under her hair, somehow saw Jesus before her—here in an East Colfax motel room. Jesus, come from the Father, full of grace and truth. Stunned by the sight, her crude phrase was (to her) highest praise. Her words—crass, vulgar, incomplete—seemed almost pure, even beautiful to me.
I hope she comes to speak of Jesus as Savior and Lord. But what an honest start—praising Jesus in her own words. We circle to pray—Jeff** first, then me: “Jesus, you said if 2 or 3 show up in your name you will be here. Thank you that you are here, full of love and grace. Bless Jeff** and Molly** with an experience of your loving presence.” Prayer done, Jeff** hugs me. I turn towards Molly**, wondering if she will want a hug.
We hug people all the time, but I didn’t want to push her. I suspect she “turns tricks” and try to be extra sensitive. But she steps forward, and I hug her, hoping through that hug to communicate Jesus’ deep love for her, where she is and as she is. Embracing her, I think this thought—Jesus must have been an incredible hugger! Pray for Molly**. I have not seen her since and I don’t know if I ever will. Pray that her small, yet pure glimpse of Jesus will lead her to His full beauty and saving love.
**Names changed to protect their identity.