Panera Bread is a wonderful place to change scenery. It gets me out of my home office, I can circulate with people, get good coffee, and some creative inspiration. Who knew it would also provide and example of Christian fellowship, mentoring, and accountability in action?
I came across two folks in line – getting coffee and such – and joked with them about this and that. They were two wonderful black women – who identified themselves as sisters. We parted, but ended up sitting close to each other – me deep in trying to get a website up and going, and the two of them sitting and chatting.
I do not eavesdrop as a matter of practice. But, I found myself drawn into their discussion. Seems the younger of the two has a son who needs some growing up to do – and the woman is frustrated and hurt as only a caring mom can be of a young man who is in danger of throwing away his potential.
The older woman listened with compassion and concern, but it soon became quite clear that she had not invited her companion out just for a coffee and gripe session. Firmly, but with loving concern, she steered the other woman into writing up a contract for her son that he needs to follow if he is to stay at her house, gave her encouragement and fortitude to help follow up on it, and generally held her hand to guide her through all the pitfalls. Not once was the younger woman referred to a program, not once was she told to go through “8 steps to raising a Godly son” meeting every Monday night, nor was she ever told to get such and such’s book. “We will work through this together” was the constant message.
I could not help but talk to them as I was leaving. I confessed to my eavesdropping, but also told them how wonderful it was to hear their conversation. It turns out that they are not sisters by blood, but indeed sisters in faith – struggling together to make sure this young man grows properly.
“Bear one another’s burdens” is Christ’s message. Sometimes we share by providing funds for disaster relief. Sometimes we sit quietly in prayer. And – sometimes – it is sitting in a coffee shop – listening – and engaging – a sister in her struggle with a son.