April 11, 2007

God Found Me at a Bar

2007 1510 page22 caphe first Adventists I ever met I met in a bar. Country music blared, cigarette smoke cast a dusty haze, and couples two-stepped and twirled their way across the dance floor. I was in a Fort Worth, Texas, honky-tonk on a Saturday night.
My fellow Baptist friend, I’ll call her Sophie,* and I were there to hang out and have a good time. I soon found myself on the dance floor (who says Baptists don’t dance?). Eventually a young man about my age, whom I had never met, I’ll call him Tony, was dancing with me. He never asked me to dance—it wasn’t a couple’s dance, but let’s just say we found ourselves moving together while sharing space on the dance floor. We talked, made each other laugh, and acted completely goofy together.
When we decided to take a breather, Tony introduced me to his friend Ray, who, like Sophie, had been sitting on the sidelines amused to laughter by my and Tony’s dancing. My new friend and I tried to pull our sideline friends onto the dance floor, but they wouldn’t budge. So we continued to entertain them with our dancing.
A Time to Talk
Finally Tony and I ran out of dance moves and energy. We sat down with our friends and began talking. We soon realized a crowded saloon with overamplified music and people getting increasingly drunk was not the best place to chat. So the four of us agreed to go out to eat and left the Stockyards nightlife behind.
2007 1510 page22At the restaurant, as we got to know each other, the conversation somehow turned toward religion, faith, and what we believed. Ray mentioned that he and Tony were Seventh-day Adventists. Though I had heard of the denomination, I didn’t know anything about its beliefs, so I asked. Ray told me they believed in and upheld the Ten Commandments, they believed the Sabbath was from sundown Friday to sundown Saturday, and they worshipped on Saturday.
Pulling out a Bible, Ray also informed me about their belief concerning the dead, which I had never heard before and found quite interesting. He opened his Bible to some verses that prove that the human soul does not go directly to heaven when a person dies; rather, we will be transformed with new bodies at Christ’s return and will meet Him in the clouds, rising to reign with Him forever on the new earth. As Ray shared his faith with Sophie and me, it all seemed to make sense. After all, the words were right there in the Bible, in black and white. I respected Ray and his beliefs, and I couldn’t argue with his interpretation of Scripture.
A Time to Plant
Ray and Tony’s doctrine was nice to know, but I left it at that. Somewhere between the lively conversation and Ray’s witnessing, Tony asked me for a date. I wasn’t interested in starting a relationship, so Sophie and I never saw Tony or Ray again.
I wasn’t converted that night, but God kept working on my heart. I continued to attend Baptist and Bible churches, and I quit going to bars. Our meeting with Ray and Tony had been a stepping-stone to higher truth. Sure, they weren’t perfect Adventists, but I wasn’t a perfect Baptist, either. If it weren’t for Tony befriending me on the dance floor, we probably never would have gone out to eat with him and Ray, and Ray would never have enlightened us about what Seventh-day Adventists believe. Just the sheer awareness of truth, whether I realized it at the time or not, was the first step toward greater knowledge and faith. A seed had been planted; more growth would follow, eventually leading me to the Adventist Church.
I don’t promote bar-hopping as a means to finding greater truth. But God met me where I was—in a bar. And He will meet us wherever we are; we need only to be open to His
* All names have been changed for purposes of privacy.
The Stockyards is a historic, cultural district in Fort Worth where the Stock Show is held each year. The district contains Western stores, saloons, Western-style restaurants, and hosts country and Western concerts.
Vanessa Sanders lives in Collegedale, Tennessee, with her husband, Ahn. She is a graduate student at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga.