Last night I went to Texas Bar and Grill to get a little work done before I went to bed. They have wifi there, and ever since college I enjoy a little ambient noise when I write. As I was opening my computer, a man came up and said, “I recognize your face. I know I know you from somewhere.” I didn’t want to get into a conversation so I said a stock line, “I have one of those generic faces that reminds people of someone else.” -which is completely true.
The man seemed satisfied and went back to his pool and I to my laptop. Unfortunately, the wifi wasn’t working so after my Pedernales IPA, I paid my check and was headed for the door.
I was almost out of the bar when I heard a woman calling, “Pastor Jim! Pastor Jim!” Knowing I had been “outed” as clergy in a bar, I turned to see who was calling. It was a woman who lives on the streets and who sometimes stays at our church on cold weather nights. “I never thought I would see Pastor Jim in a bar! I won’t tell anyone Pastor Jim!” She ran up kissing me warmly on my cheek.
“It’s okay,” I said, “Presbyterians can drink.” Scanning my memory I recalled that some months back I had agreed to perform her marriage on Valentine’s Day weekend, and if I wasn’t mistaken, this was the night before when that wedding would have been. The engaged couple, both of whom lived on the street, had come to church for a warm meal and asked if I would perform their marriage on Valentine’s Day. I asked them to call me so we could talk about it, but they never did.
The woman continued to hug me and kissing my cheek, and I was having trouble believing the irony of the timing. I decided not to look up to see how the rest of the bar was taking this. “Wasn’t this the weekend your marriage was supposed to be?” I asked.
“My boyfriend broke my nose” she said pointing to her face. “So I called the wedding off.” The woman looked down in a moment of sadness, but then her eyes filled with light. “Pastor Jim, this is my old boy friend! I went back to him because he treats me real good.” A tall very shy bearded man rose from his bar stool, and then looked at his feet as he took my hand. “And this is my father,” the woman said hugging an older man in a bright red cap sitting next to her.
When I eventually headed out into the night I took with me the warmth and strangeness of that moment. On what could have been a very painful evening, this woman gathered with loved ones to grieve her past, and declare her hopes for the future. The moment was almost sacramental. Like a child cuts pieces of a magazine to make a card for a parent, the sacraments arrange the shattered pieces of our past to make a Valentine’s Card for the future.