“In Him was life, and the life was the light of men.” John 1:4
There were no open tables at the food court the day I met Irene. I joined a group of twenty-somethings hanging at the mall on a sunny San Diego afternoon, and we paused the shopping spree for a bite to eat.
“Is this seat taken?” she blurted.
“I can’t find anywhere to sit.”
She demanded attention with her loud print shirt and her east coast accent.
“Of course,” one of the guys responded waving his hand for her to join us.
And the conversation was as lively as her blouse.
She had taken the bus to the mall to get out from her small apartment, she had two sons who did not spend much time with her, and she was lonely. We obliged her, and she stayed so long visiting over lunch that she missed her bus back. We squeezed her into our Honda hatchback, along with the four of us, and gave her a lift back home.
A divine appointment. A flicker of hope. A moment of purpose with many to follow.
Irene’s hair was bright white like the light she saw at the end of the tunnel in her near-death experience. She did not take kindly to pastor’s preaching the week I invited her to church.
“God is not a white light at the end of a dark tunnel,” he stated as a matter of fact.
She whipped her head around and I could feel the laser beam stare melting my cheek like wax. Disdain dripped from her countenance.
“You told him my secret!” she yelled at me after the service, shaking her fists in the air.
“God knows all our secrets,” I replied with a smirk.
It took the entire forty-minute drive back to her apartment to calm her down and to explain that it was Jesus showing up in her world, inviting her to get to know him.
And she invited me to get to know her. I visited her often and we swapped stories about life, love, and writing. She was a poet.
I imagined her on stage at open mic night with her attitude, her doctrine, and her colorful shirt on full display like a soap box preacher. Animated. Intentional. Flamboyant.
She knew the power of words, and it became a force between us.
We had in depth conversations about Jesus, and though she was Jewish and did not understand him to be the Messiah, the Word was there with us.
Knowing Irene was a treasure to me. And when I spoke at her memorial service, I shared the power of poetry to honor her and I shared the Word of hope to honor Him.
May we notice and respond to the subtle, and flamboyant, invitations to share the hope of Jesus.
Make room at your table.