A couple weeks ago I received this text from my former youth pastor: Let me know if you can grab some coffee or something with me today…anytime.
After no communication with him for almost a whole year, because of past wounds, countless disagreements, and a “goodbye” to my home church, I wanted to retreat – sink into my teal, crewneck sweatshirt and ignore any form of conversation. But anyone who knows me knows that I’m a sucker for coffee, and feeling a little under the weather, I thought maybe a macchiato might make the meeting worth it. So I went.
We met at the nearest Starbucks, where I anxiously played catch-up: How are you? Good. When do you head back to college? Late August.
I was waiting for the punch-line, the part where I’m told people are worried about my salvation, because the last time I stepped through the front doors of the church was for a funeral. The part where I’m called out on every possible mistake I could have made in the past year at college. The part where I get in trouble for writing bitter words about my church leaders on my blog and for not attending church. But instead, an apology stumbled out of his mouth, like the wounds that tumbled out of my eyes in the form of tears throughout the past year.
He was sorry for not pulling me back into my home when I needed it most. He said he should have been better at interceding, giving my voice and ideas the volume they needed to reach the church. He regretted giving up on me when I traded in Youth Group for nights spent with friends and when I ignored phone call after phone call. I was expecting him to lay the wrath on thick, but instead, there was no judgment, no condemnation, and no punishment – only an apology that I never saw coming, wrapped up in grace.
My eyes grew teary, as my tainted view of the church was beginning to be wiped clean by a simple, “I’m sorry,” combined with warm coffee cradled in my hands.
I realized sometimes healing is best found in a coffee shop, where willing hearts meet over macchiatos and americanos. Sometimes healing is not found within church walls, but in a place where two people meet and decide to lay down their arms to instead embrace forgiveness. It’s found when the coating of bitterness is replaced with the aroma of brewing coffee.
Healing can happen in a church. I am a firm believer in that and the power of prayer. But I also know healing happens when roommates go on a ten mile power walk to Starbucks and share their childhood memories, or when friends want to see the sunset, so they abandon the board game and run down the road. It is found when people are willing to lay down their guards and instead wrap themselves in the scent of coffee beans and caramel sauce. Healing is discovered when the clock ticks over to 3am, but we are still sitting on the couch indulging in monster cookies and dry cereal.
In my 20 years of life, I have found that there doesn’t have to be a chorus of prayers or the laying of twenty hands on a sick person, but instead two beings willing to put the armor down, a chorus of laughter, and some sort of food. Be willing. Let loose. Lay the guns down. Make a batch of cookies. Drink the cold-brewed coffee. And let the healing and grace flood over your wounds, making you new.