Waking up in the morning to only dread the day ahead had become commonplace in Brian’s life. It felt like life was one endless series of tries and failures in his career. There was the time he tried Real Estate only to find he didn’t really have the heart for sales and trying to persuade people to buy. He was a self-admitted flop when he tried to start his own organic lawn care company. Each endeavor was part of his search to find a way to support his wife and two year old daughter while also pursuing his life’s passion of music. For any creative personality, when everyday life isn’t going well, creativity can wane. The worship pastor, Pastor Steve, at his church wanted Brian to be part of the worship team, but depression over feeling like a failure caused him to say no and avoid the worship pastor. Even church life was something Brian was starting to feel reluctant about. Brian eventually got out of bed to make breakfast for him and his wife Maria. During breakfast, he did his best to hide his depression from Maria. However, Maria being quite perceptive knew her husband was troubled about things.
After breakfast, Brian kissed Maria and their little girl Rachael goodbye, got in his twelve year old Toyota, and drove to meet his friend Larry at The Harbor for coffee. Maria was not going to surrender the husband she loves so deeply to the darkness coming over him, so she sought out the one person she knew could help Brian. She went to Jesus in prayer, and pray she did, for an hour.
No sooner had Brian pulled into the parking lot, he had a text alert on his cell phone. He parked his car, checked the text and saw that Larry had sent him a text saying something came up at the last minute and had to cancel their coffee appointment. “What else can go wrong?” Brian thought to himself. He got out of his car and headed to the door of The Harbor anyway.
Jessica was working that morning. Her life had blossomed since her encounter with Mary Magdalene thanks to her new friend and boss Cindy and the people she had met at church. Jessica had watched Cindy on many occasions whisper a quiet prayer for customers as they entered The Harbor, something Jessica had started to do herself. Jessica watched as Brian came in with his head down obviously in a fog emotionally. She whispered a quick prayer for the man approaching the counter.
Brian got to the counter and mustered a slight smile as Jessica greeted him with a bright one of her own saying, “Good Morning. Welcome to the Harbor. What would you like to have?”
Brian was trying to count the quarters in his pocket while putting his keys in his pocket without being conspicuous about it. He figured he had enough for a cup of coffee, so he replied, “Just a cup of coffee today.”
“Sure, here’s a mug for you. The coffee is right over there.” Jessica tried to be cheerful for the despondent soul in front of her.
Brian got his coffee and sat down at a table along the side wall in an attempt to avoid interacting with people. As he drank his coffee, he wasn’t praying rather muttering his disappointment in himself and his life. He was blankly staring at his bible app on his phone when a man walked up to him to ask, “Do you mind if I sit here? There are no empty tables at the moment.” Brian looked up and saw the middle-aged man standing there. Brian nodded okay and looked back down at the bible app.
“Do you read the bible a lot?”, inquired the polite intruder on Brian’s sullen mood. Brian looked up at the man sitting in front of him. The man was neatly dressed and well-groomed including his neatly trimmed beard. In other words, on the outside, the man looked like everything Brian could only wish to be. Brian just responded with a puzzled, “sure”, wondering why the man would ask him such a question.
The man continued on trying to strike up a conversation with Brian, “I love reading the bible. You don’t know how lucky you are to have so many different ways to read it, book form, app on your phone, websites like biblegateway.” Brian didn’t react, he only thought to himself, “lucky? Me? This guy is nuts.”
The man persisted, “There are so many examples in the bible of people who stumbled along, failed, got back up with God’s help, and experienced changed lives. Changed for the better. That’s why I love reading the bible.”
Brian had had enough of what he thought was an annoying positive thinker sitting in front of him, sat back in his chair, and felt like giving him a full barrage of insults, however, he held back and simply said, “Sir I don’t know you. I am not in the mood. How about we just sit quietly and leave each alone.”
“Suit yourself. I am not one of those crazy positive thinkers who believe in fairy tales. It’s just that I have lived it myself coming back from failure with God’s help,” the man replied.
Brian wondered if the man was some kind of mind reader. How did he know he had just thought of him as a crazy positive thinker? The comment got Brian’s attention, so he apologized with, “Sorry. I am just having a bad day. My name is Brian. What’s your name?”
The man reached out to shake hands and let Brian know, “My name is John Mark.”
Brian wondered where he had heard that name before, so he reacted, “It seems I have heard that name before, John Mark, but I am not sure where. I have met guys named John and guys named Mark, but John Mark, I haven’t ever met anyone with that name. Where have I heard that name before?”
John Mark explained, “Well sometimes I am referred to as Mark and sometimes John Mark, it all depends on what translation you are reading.”
Brian was in no mood for games and the depends on what translation comment seemed strange, and he let John Mark know saying, “I am not sure what you are getting at about what translation. Maybe it actually is best if we drop it.”
John Mark apologized, “Sorry, I didn’t mean to offend you. It’s just that I know you are struggling at this time in your life. The organic lawn care business wasn’t a failure. It simply wasn’t God’s plan for you.”
Brian had had enough of this now seeming odd man sitting in front of him and it was time to let him know, “How do you know anything about me and what business is it of yours?”
John Mark politely sought to reassure Brian of his motivation, “Brian there are many things I have been shown about you, but not to cause harm or confusion. After all, God is not the author of confusion. I will get to the point for you. My name is John Mark, and God has sent me here to share my story with you to encourage you that things can and will get better for you.”
For some reason Brian could not understand, he felt he should listen to the man and no longer thought of him as being off the wall. Brian only nodded and gestured for John Mark to go ahead.
John Mark continued, “If you look in your bible at Acts 15:36 to 41 you can see that I had failed the one and only Paul by deserting him and Barnabas before. Barnabas wanted to take me along with them to give me another chance, but Paul did not want me around. Paul, the great missionary apostle, did not want me around. I felt so low at that point. I mean if one of the top guys in the early church thought I couldn’t be trusted, what chance would I have of ever becoming anything in the church. Fortunately for me, Barnabas insisted I was worth it to give me a second chance. It was perhaps the lowest point in my life to feel like I had come between two great friends.”
Brian looked up over his cup of coffee at John Mark and bluntly retorted, “You know you are kind of blowing this cheer me up thing.”
John Mark chuckled a bit, “I see your point, but my story did not end there. Brian, Barnabas took me under his wing and mentored me. He was that older father figure kind of guy who could patiently work with me to help me grow in my faith and as a man. I learned a lot from him. The proof that it worked in is one little comment by Paul in the second letter he wrote to Timothy to instruct him to bring Mark along because he is useful in my ministry. Brian, God can do wonderful things in our lives as long as we don’t give up. Your worship pastor asked you to be part of the worship ministry. You have musical talent. Get in touch with him and ask him to let you be a part of it. Today, you can meet your Barnabas. My time is up, but when Jessica comes over here, ask her to introduce you to a man named Doug. Goodbye my friend.”
With that goodbye, John Mark was gone. Brian was sitting there trying to make sense of what had just transpired when Jessica walked over. “Can I get you anything else sir?” Jessica asked even though she had a feeling the anything else wouldn’t be coffee or muffins.
Brian was at a loss for words at first but finally managed to respond, “I am not sure how to say this. I, uhm, just had a conversation, but how to explain it.”
Jessica interrupted, “Don’t worry. I totally understand. I had one of those kinds of conversations myself the first time I came into The Harbor and it changed my life.”
Brian was relieved the young lady wouldn’t think he was crazy. He filled her in on what John Mark had encouraged him to do, “So the guy I just talked with told me you can introduce me to someone named Doug. Do you know a Doug?”
Jessica was beaming., “I sure do. He heads up a ministry called Love Justice. He is sitting right over there. Come with me.”
Brian followed Jessica over to another table where a gentleman was enjoying a cafe latte while checking into possible flights on his laptop.
Jessica felt comfortable around Doug because she knew he worked to rescue young women like she needed in the past. They had struck up a friendship to the point she looked at Doug as a kind of grandfather. Jessica got his attention, “Hey Doug, how’s it going?”
Doug looked up from his laptop and smiled. Joy showed through his eyes even though he was pushing 70. He hadn’t lost that zest for life nor his humor, “Hey Jessica. Good to see you. When are you going to bring me a doughnut?”
Jessica laughed and chided him, “You know doughnuts aren’t any good for you. You can have an apple haha. Actually, I have someone who needs to meet you. This is Brian and someone told him he should meet you.”
Doug motioned for Brian to have a seat, “Hey Brian, good to meet you, what’s up?”
Written by Matthew Kohrell
Note from the author– I hope you enjoy these short stories. I will try to post a new one each Tuesday afternoon. I have the next 3 story ideas, but if you have a brother or sister in the Christian faith from ancient times you want to suggest, please send me a comment.
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