Joshua at Starbucks (Who May or May Not Exist)

Originally posted on March 19, 2014

I hate small talk.  We have established that before.  I will pour out my soul to you, ask deep, probing, make-you-uncomfortable questions, and hold a perfect stranger while she cries, but as I established here, I HATE SMALL TALK.

I love to smile, to offer a quick word of encouragement to a struggling mama or obviously frustrated cashier, but I don’t want to chit chat because it makes me feel so completely out of my element.

So you can imagine how I felt the day I was accosted at Starbucks by a cheerful barista (is that the word when it is a guy or it is baristo?)  named Joshua.  In that moment I would have rather stuck my hand directly in the hot coffee than carried on a “how’s the weather” conversation with this guy.  I had 3 hours of kids at VBS, time to kill, and a bunch of work I needed to get to.  For the record, it was not anything about him in particular, he was lovely I am sure, I just wanted to get my stinking coffee and move on.

Funny thing is, I am not even a Starbucks kind of girl.  I was only at that particular one because I didn’t want to drive all the way back to Franklin.  I rarely ever go to Starbucks, feel super uncomfortable at my lack of hipsterness when I do, and just try to keep my head down so no one tries to talk to me.  I know, I’m super friendly & very Jesus-like.

So here is the conversation:

Joshua: Hey there. What are you up to today?

Me: (Looking behind me sure he must be talking to someone else) Oh, hey.  I’m just working while my kids are at Vacation Bible School.

Joshua: Oh yeah, what do you do?  Do you like it? (All of this while smiling wildly at me)

Me: (Still confused at this conversation) Oh, um, I do contract work for a marketing research firm.  I kind of hate it right now because I’m a little bored.  But it’s a great job, I just don’t think it is what I am supposed to be doing. (As this comes out of my mouth I’m stomping my own toe wondering why on earth I am feeding this conversation because I just want it to end so I can go drink my coffee but we all know I am an over sharer and completely incapable of small talk so naturally I have to take this to some stupid deep level.)

Joshua: What is your ministry?  (WHAT THE HECK!?!? How does this guy even know to ask me this?)

Me: Well, I don’t have one anymore.  We moved here last year (and I go on and on I am sure about the move) and I left youth ministry and I miss it.  I have been wondering for the past year what my ministry is anymore.  I want to get back into ministry and I miss doing something creative.  (Again, how did he know to ask me this, is there something tatooed on my forehead?  Was my Bible showing?  I didn’t even have a big cross around my neck.  I’m wearing a bright striped skirt, flip flops and a tank top.  Not exactly “Church Lady” garb.)

Joshua: (Looking at me in a way that I am pretty sure he can see my soul, says) When you were telling me that, God gave me an image of clay hearts shattering.  But you know when God breaks something apart, He doesn’t just put it back together.  He makes it into something completely new.  

Me: (stunned) Well, um that is crazy because for the past year I have felt led to clay and can only seem to meet clay artists, and I am trying to figure out what all of that means and I used to want to be an artist and and and….

Joshua: Well, I am sure God will show you your ministry, have a good day.

And that was it.  I walked away stunned, confused, and hungry for more.  For nearly a year I had been feeling God pointing me to clay and over the next few weeks and months it would be crazier.  I would just know I was to read a particular scripture and there would be a reference to clay, I would meet clay artists, I would call my boss to tell her what I was thinking about doing and she would know I was going to tell her something about clay because she was just reading Jeremiah 18.“Come, go down to the potter’s house, and there I will let you hear my words.” So I went down to the potter’s house, and there he was working at his wheel. The vessel he was making of clay was spoiled in the potter’s hand, and he reworked it into another vessel, as seemed good to him. Then the word of the Lord came to me: Can I not do with you, O house of Israel, just as this potter has done? says the Lord. Just like the clay in the potter’s hand, so are you in my hand, O house of Israel. (Jer 18:2-6)

You know, like Joshua said, He formed something NEW from the clay.  But the day that really got me was when I was feeling especially stubborn.  I was sitting on the deck having a talk with God.  I was acknowledging that He sent this Joshua person to tell me something, He sent me scripture many times and was practically yelling CLAY at me.  But stubborn as I am, I asked for just one more clear piece of direction.  I knew instantly I was to read Lamentations 4:2.  I know, that makes exactly zero sense because one, where in the Bible is Lamentations?  And two, did He really just give me a specific verse to read?

“The precious sons of Zion, Weighed against fine gold, How they are regarded as earthen jars, The work of a potter’s hands!” (Lam 4:2)

SHUT. THE. FRONT. DOOR.

OK God, I get it.  I literally dropped my Bible on the deck and laughed out loud.  I have probably never read Lamentations other than my many attempts (and failures) at reading the Bible in its entirety.  I could not tell you if I tried who wrote it or why and I certainly had no clue whatsoever that there would be a reference to clay.  But in that moment, that one line was meant for me to read.

Clay.  The Potter.  Shattering Clay Hearts.  Making Something New.

But is it really about the clay?  I’m still not sure.  I started working with clay in the only way that made sense.  The business side of that has been slow getting going but I am not sure that is what is is about.  Perhaps it was about me rediscovering passion and creativity.  Maybe it was what I needed to open a new side of me.  Maybe it was about opening my eyes to the something new He is making.  I don’t know if I am making these clay handprints to make a living, to meet a specific person, or to revive something in me.  I don’t know if I am missing the point altogether but I gave up trying to figure things out for Lent so atleast for 40 days it doesn’t matter.

I say it all the time and I know my friends are tired of hearing it but HE IS TALKING TO YOU.  Goodness knows if He is talking to me and can make Himself heard in all the commotion that happens constantly in my head He will make Himself heard to you if you are listening.  God is not selective in who He speaks to, we are selective in whether or not we listen.  It is not always audible, it is not always easy to train your mind and soul to listen.  But when you do it is worth it.  There is a peace and a sweetness that comes when you feel God’s heart speaking to yours.

I’m not sure if Joshua is real.  I know that sounds crazy but I am genuinely a bit scared to ever go back to that Strabucks and see if he is (or has ever been) there.  It was too God directed, too obviously constructed for me to experience.  God will use whatever means necessary to get our attention.  On that day he used a huge discomfort to disarm me and make me listen, goodness am I thankful He did.

Has a stranger ever spoken truth into your life?  Has God used your discomfort to get your attention?