Saturday Night at Billy’s…

marlins

Normally, when I visit my parents in the spring and fall, you’ll find me swinging on the front porch, barefoot, with a book in hand.  Every so often, I’ll hear a car door slam at Honest Greg’s Sports Bar and will look up from my book to see if it looks like happy hour has started yet.  When happy hour starts, the little parking lot might have four cars parked in it.  Other than that, I just ignore the sleepy little “watering hole” that sits kitty-corner from my parents’ parsonage.

 

Today was the kind of day when the best ideas are born.  I took my notebook and pen and sat in the swing, barefoot and enjoying the fact that the temperature is perfect and no mosquitoes seem to have hatched in this part of the state yet.  Although it was somewhat cloudy, I had a couple of good hours of daylight left and some ideas in my head.  But then, I noticed that something was different.

 

It was pretty hard to ignore the fifty motorcycles rumbling down the street.  When they turned their caravan into the gravel parking lot at Honest Greg’s, curiosity won out.  I closed my notebook, tucked my pen into its spine and tried to figure out how to watch without staring.  And that’s when I noticed that the sign at Honest Greg’s doesn’t say Honest Greg’s anymore.  Now, it says, “Billy’s Biker Bar” and has a 6-foot stuffed gorilla chained to it.  (How did I miss seeing that earlier?!)

 

Soon after the bikers arrived, loud music started.  Now, I don’t mean that they had the jukebox turned up on high.  I mean, they had a live band set up in a tent in the back yard of the bar.  And for hours we heard them play everything from Lynyrd Skynyrd to Eric Clapton to Jimmy Buffett.  Surprisingly, it wasn’t all that annoying to me.  In fact, I was pretty tickled to hear my Dad (the preacher that barely let us listen to the radio when we were kids) singing along with a Fats Domino song. 

 

As the evening shadows started to creep up onto the porch, I sat, fifty yards from the bar, staring at the neon beer signs and sensing the Spirit speaking to me….

 

The summer I was eighteen, I went temporarily insane.  After spending all of my school years toeing the line and being “the responsible, mature one,” as soon as graduation was over, I just lost control.  I spent six or eight months partying, hanging out with other not-so-bright people, and getting all sorts of stupidity out of my system.  But after I came back to my senses, I didn’t step foot into a bar for more than a decade. 

 

A few years ago, my older brother started singing lead in a Southern Rock/Blues band.  They played bars, back porches, weddings, and festivals all around their local area.  Well, my brother and I have had a very challenging relationship for a number of years.  In an attempt to help heal that relationship and show him my love and support, I accepted an invitation to come hear his band play at a bar in downtown Winterville, NC.  I, my brother’s girlfriend, and one of her girlfriends, got all dressed up and made up for a night on the town.  I didn’t really know what to expect; I just knew that me being there was important to my brother. Even though I knew that a lot of church folks wouldn’t approve of my being there, I went.  (The band let me introduce my big brother– look at the picture to see how embarrassed he was!)

 

I expected the place to be full of drunks, but by the end of the night, we had realized that there was also quite a bit of cocaine being passed around.  We girls were being harassed and manhandled so badly that eventually, the band pulled in one of their friends to be our bodyguard.  I found myself sitting at a table, sipping ginger ale, and almost crying over the darkness that I was seeing around me.

 

I came away from that weekend different than I had been before.  I realized that I’d been hidden away in my safe, comfortable pew for so long that I’d forgotten what emptiness and desperation felt like.  I’d put religious blinders on and become ignorant to what goes on outside the four walls of the church.  But sitting in that bar in Winterville, I saw these people, stumbling in the darkness, lost, and looking for their way home—in the bottom of a bottle, in a line of cocaine, in a one night stand.  And all I could think was: Oh, Jesus, how your heart must be broken!  They don’t know that you love them!

 

Several years ago, I started feeling a strong urgency for The Church to prepare our churches for an influx of hurting people.  How we, like Nehemiah, should pray and build our churches in such a way that they’ll be strong and safe to shelter those folks.  I shared that urgency with a number of people from a couple of different churches, but I’m not sure that we all understood it then.  But the more hurting people I see, the more I understand it.

 

It’s easy for church folks (me too) to get comfortable and forget that there are people around them that are crushed and dying.  I’ve been on both sides of this—I’ve been the “comfy” Christian and I’ve been the one that’s crushed and dying.  My prayer is that God will continue to push (SHOVE!) me out of my comfort zone and that He will keep opening my eyes to the wounded around me.  I pray that The Church will become that haven and sanctuary for those that are hurting.  It’s time for God’s people to accept the challenge to stop “playing Dressed Up Church” and start showing our scars so that the people around us will feel comfortable enough to come in and get healed. 

 

 

About Sarah Salter

Comments

  1. I find it interesting, and normal, that one would miss the gorilla….it intertwines with the rest of your post. We get comfortable and don’t necessarially see the changes around us. As Christians, we get used to things a certain way, and don’t always notice when a sister or brother is hurting, changing, or struggling. The desperation in the world is horrible, even among those who do love God. On a side not, I would have loved to see your Dad singing. lol :)

  2. Eliza Garrison says:

    “Be still my heart”, Oh, how refreshing, your message is to the body of believers, (especially Me), it brought back to remembrance when I first was born again, that, I was reminded of who I was B. C. (before Christ), My Father was an alcoholic, I grew up in going to houses that sold alcohol, and they had children like me and we went to school together, so the Lord reminded me, one day in church during testimony time that a visitor was there, and many testified of God goodness etc., but afterward, she came up to me, and told me she could not relate to the others testimony, but she could relate to me, because, while she was in church, she needed a drink of alcohol. She felt comfortable enough to talk to me! Romans 10:14 But how can they call on Him if they never heard about Him? And how they hear about Him unless tells them? And can relate the message of love to them. Eliza

  3. Barbara says:

    Hear, hear.. I agree with you.. We need to get out and do our part that God would have us do.. I want to do Jericho Marches around these places and the be ready to minister in whatever way God sees fit.. There is definitely a ministry there for sure.
    And to barrow Sister Eliza’s line.. Romans 10:14 But how can they call on Him if they never heard about Him? And how they hear about Him unless tells them? And can relate the message of love to them. I definitely agree with that.
    Now as for missing the Gorilla and the new sign, I don’t know Sister Sarah.. I guess the Harley’s had to wake you up so to speak… And the music of course.. And I too would have loved to see your Dad singing too.. LOL..
    B

  4. Skynyrd AND Clapton AND Buffett?! Now that sounds like a good time.

    But fifty bikers in a bar? Not such a good time.

    But you know, I bet Jesus would’ve walked in there. He’d maybe rack a few and play a little pool, slap some redneck on the back, look him in the eyes, and say, “I know you’re hurtin’. Let me help.”

    I also think Jesus would frequent Waffle House, but that’s another point for another time.

    It’s good that God pushes us out of our comfort zone. Because we’re not here to be comfortable, we’re here to be on the front lines.

  5. “It’s good that God pushes us out of our comfort zone. Because we’re not here to be comfortable, we’re here to be on the front lines.”

    I don’t know Billy, but this makes a ton of sense to me! Every single day, God shows me something, someone, who is “different” than I am. Even if I am uncomfortable with them, my job isn’t to judge, it is to serve. It is to wash their feet and love them….how many of us do this as the Christians we claim to be?

  6. Well… I guess I should make my “guest comment” appearance…lol I have to say that now that I am back on the same page as God… I often look back on my years playing pool halls, and biker bars, and clubs filled to the brim with people hurting….. and I see that while I never quite fit in….I never knew why….
    Now I know… it was because I was supposed to be an example instead of an enabler. I was supposed to let my light SHINE instead of putting it in colored cans and adding a smoke machine…. because the horrible witness that I DID have back then was the only witness that some of those folks ever got….. I can only pray that NOW when I move forward with the next phase in my music career that God will allow me (or teach me how) to show people the kind of love that I have come to know….. in a way that only I can.. Much like my amazing little sister does every time she sits down to write this blog.

  7. A six foot stuffed gorilla…now that must be a sight to see!

    The Bible is clear about the kinds of people Jesus sought out…the lost, the widows, the prostitutes, the tax collectors, those shunned to the very outskirts of society. He LOVED them. Loved ON them. That’s His example to us.

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