I've been going through this phase (for probably a year and a half) of wondering, not so much if God really speaks, but how one really knows. Or at least if I've ever really known. Then on Saturday I went to a wedding.
But first, I need to backtrack a little bit.
After London and that strong sense of "leading away," I never got a very clear sense of "leading to," so I went to grad school for a year and disliked it and quit. Then I wanted to open a coffee shop, but I had neither money nor coffee-knowledge, so I headed back to my home state to work at Starbucks. For a while (even though I was concurrently going through a heinous time of reverse-culture-shock), I really felt like Starbucks was just the place to be, because I could still hang out with people and talk to them about Jesus. But in the last two years I haven't felt I was doing that so well, and so I've been casting about, trying to find other "callings" or something, and not really succeeding. Because I've felt sort of "flounder-ish" lately, it's made me doubt that I was right to work at Starbucks in the first place, and then that I was right to leave London, and then pretty much everything else.
But on Saturday, Jerry got married to Kristin. Jerry was one of my first and best friends at Starbucks. Even in my first week there, he didn't make me feel like I had to prove myself before I could feel like a valued member of the team. He also started, pretty much immediately, talking about faith-related issues. We ended up having a lot of those conversations. He didn't really seem to "get" where I was coming from a lot of the time, but he tried really hard, and he still kept asking me about it, challenging me, not (usually) to be obnoxious, but because he really wanted to know why I did or didn't do certain things, and how consistent I was about doing or not doing them.
Eventually our conversations tapered off, but then a while back, he started asking questions again. They were a lot more specific and a lot more personal to him. Also, Kristin started working at our store. Kristin is a pastor's kid like me, and she was just beginning to walk back toward Jesus, having taken a break from Him for a while. I can't really unravel the chronology at this point, but eventually (in some order, but not necessarily this one) Jerry and Kristin started dating, Kristin's relationship with Jesus re-established, and Jerry's relationship with Jesus got started. It was really exciting for me, because in spite of having been a missionary, I haven't really seen very many of my friends decide that Jesus was really worth it to them. But it's been some time since Jerry did, and it's amazing (and dismaying) how you can take something miraculous for granted after a while.
At the wedding reception on Saturday, I sat with a former Starbucks colleague and her fiance, who Jerry is now sort of discipling. We sat with some other people, too, who were really cool and also really into the usual Conservative Evangelical Christian Subculture, so I found myself talking about My Life as a Missionary. Then I talked about Starbucks as mission. It was sounding all very spiritual until I confessed how discouraging it sometimes is never to see friends whom one has been given to love and care about, learning to love and care about Jesus. One of our table mates said, as people always say, "Well, but you were planting seeds. You were being faithful." It's just that sometimes that's not very comforting to hear. Sometimes I'm not always sure.
And then Former Starbucks Colleague burst out, as if it were most obvious and I was just being silly, "What about Jerry? Come on, Jenn. He's changed so much. He's not the same person at all!" And I realised that, though I don't know how much of that change was related to anything I did or said, God did allow me to be in Jerry's life at that time, and He did allow me to see at least the beginnings of the transformation.
I thought of that pious-sounding thing we evangelicals like to say at meetings or choir concerts: "If just one person comes to know Christ through this, it will have been worth it." I wondered if I believed that, really. I guess I do, but I think I might need reminders, especially if I end up at Starbucks for years and years (more than I already have been). But this was a good time for the first reminder to come.
And then I thought . . . Jerry's discipling Former Starbucks Colleague. And her fiance is the cousin of another former Starbucks colleague. And I'm still friends with her. And relationships grow and fade and sometimes come back, but none of our stories are over yet, and maybe there will be more than just one person who comes to know Christ . . .