Sitting at a dimly lit bar, drinking a Newcastle Ale, I can feel the allure of being here. It’s lunchtime. Around me, various characters, which includes those that sporadically pass in and out of my life at work. That’s where the bar is. Just around the block. Despite the familiar faces. I chose a spot that all but guarantees me solitude at the bar. Just like at church, certain barflies have their favorite spots at a bar, and they probably wouldn’t budge from it, even for their mothers.
Although, I sometimes do sit with them, I picked a spot away from the crowd of “somebodies” I know. It’s okay, I’m not a regular attendee at this “church.” As they file in for lunch, they walk past me to their regular bar stools in the back. I don’t think they pretend to ignore me. It’s more like a horse with blinders on. They’re keeping their eye on the prize, coming in and making a beeline for that old faithful seat, day in and day out. But, who knows? Maybe there’s an unwritten rule about being in a bar and sitting apart from the regulars. Maybe there’s an understanding that, this guy wants his space today. Again, who knows?
So, here I sit, leaning forward in my stool, perched over the edge, elbows rested on this well-worn rail. Today, the anonymity of the dark bar is welcoming. Personal performances are not needed. I can sit here quietly with no expectations on me, except maybe to square up my bill at the end. I don’t have to be a clerk in a courtroom in this moment. I don’t have to be a dad, a husband, a neighbor. I can stare down at what is now a half empty glass, and just be…
I have to wonder if it’s here in this bar, and many others like it, where the “masks of God” as explained in Lutheran theology, are lost. I wonder if it is there where they are abandoned, as some walk away from the faith for the bottom of a glass of whiskey or a constant round of beer that never runs dry.
I sit here, my third time this past week, and I have to wonder is there some part of me starting to die away, some aspect of my faith fading from existence.
I don’t think this bar or any bar, is where faith goes to die, because I know some find faith at the bottom of glass, or more likely, it’s where God find them when hopelessness is all that’s left from the remains of a shattered life. It’s not just where the like-minded go to let life slip away with the numbing of alcohol, but where fellowships form, as a stiff drink tempers words and loosens lips enough to share in the honest struggle of life. There’s no dismissing responsibilities in a glass of spirits, but through that shared glass, is finding strength to move forward, somehow feeling reinvigorated in this fellowship at the bar, to come alongside, and be honest about it all.
It feels as if time will tell, which side I fall on. The fast fading life fed-up with it all, or the forging onward towards hope and faith, borne upon the shoulders of Christ first, and like-minded men second.
I know now, right now, Christ is my hope. It’s my only hope. That has to be enough. And it will be.
I kick back my head, as I finish the last of drop of my ale, my third by now. I drop a tip on the bar, and as I get up, I wonder why the stool always has to make so much freakin’ noise as I slide it away to rise. I chase the thought away, giving a half-hearted wave to anyone that might care, and take my slight alcohol induced buzz into the warm summer air as I make my way back to my job once more.
I spent a week in that bar, watching happy tourists gather to share “a pint” before their trip back on the ferry to Manhattan, and trying to tune out loud drinkers who forgot they were on the phone in public, and even being amused at the rantings of the alcoholically courageous who talk about nonsensical things, and sometimes even deeper things that you can tell they had no true learned knowledge of. In it all, was a cross-section of life at this bar. How fully realized, I couldn’t say, but enough to see the gamut of emotions played out, with me, at least temporarily, filling in for the part of the sad sack, wallowing lost in his beer.
And after all that I couldn’t help but think that there is no place Jesus wouldn’t go.
He sat beside me as I generously imbibed beer after beer.
He encouraged me as my mind poured over past sins, current struggles and every insecurity that comes from it.
He was there. He is there now.
Waiting for me. Waiting for the next version of whoever “me” is to come in and sit quietly, while sipping on their poison of choice.
This is why I know Jesus is enough.
He is wherever I am. Wherever you are.
He goes before us making intercession on our behalf and meets us on the edge of our darkest moments. He is there, ahead of us. Waiting for us, so we are never truly alone, wherever we run to.
That’s really all I got.
These are thoughts of a sad little man sitting at a typical looking bar, sipping one beer after another.
These are the thoughts found at the bottom of my glass.
Take them for what they are.