I met Steve in January 2003. He was on staff at Cedar Creek church in Perrysbug Ohio. I knew him from afar but then took a class called Intro to the Creek. He talked for awhile about what it was like at the church and then turned it over to an outreach guy to talk about their Great Commission program. But first, he invited anyone that wanted to talk to him to step outside and he would love to talk to people one on one about Jesus.
I so desperately wanted to speak to him because God had grabbed a hold of me a few weeks previous on Christmas Eve and dude wouldn't let go. But I knew, I just knew that he didn't really mean it. I knew that people in churches were hypocrites and just set you up to fall on your face so they could laugh at you. I wasn't really interested in this outreach stuff (ironic isn't it seeing as I now lead outreach at my church)and I was feeling like I'd hit my Jesusy quota for the day so I got up to sneak out of the class. I walked out into the hallway, and there was Steve. He was talking to another Steve on staff about how if no one wanted to talk he would just listen to outreach guy talk. Great, I was off the hook! I crept down the hall and was almost to the stairs when Steve called, "Excuse me ma'am. Did you want to talk about Jesus?"
That was such a God moment. Because I did, so badly I could have cried.
Steve and I went to the common office area and he talked to me about Jesus for almost 3 hours.
I told Steve about Christmas Eve, about how I had been sneaking to church ever since and that my parents went there but I didn't want them to know I was going too. I think the exact phrase I used was, "some kids sneak crack, I sneak Jesus".
The most important thing that Steve said to me that night was, "I'm an asshole"
He absolutely shattered my perception that people in churches had all their stuff together. He told me about how he was banned from intermural sports because he didn't just want to win, he wanted to win and grind the losers face into the mud. He said he couldn't have a drop to drink, because he was a mean drunk and he never liked to stop at just one drop. But, he said that he met Jesus when he was falling apart and didn't know his caboose from a hole in the ground. He said that if we all waited until we had it all together, if our salvation depended on us being all squeaky clean than Heaven would surely be an empty empty place. I left that night feeling so seen, so acknowledged and listened to. It was clean cool water to a girl that felt so lost in the desert.
The following Sunday I snuck into church and sat alone soaking it all in. I got lost in the last worship song and didn't get to leave as early as I needed to to avoid my parents. I dashed out the door just ahead of them and ran smack into Steve. He remembered my name. He shook my hand and asked if it was ok if he hugged me. I stammered out, "my parents are coming!" He looked over my shoulder and saw them (I didn't know till after that he knew them). Quickly he put his arm around my shoulder and rotated me so I was standing behind him. He said hello to my parents and shook my dad's hand. The whole time I was hiding half behind him and half behind the door. I was safe, no one knew about me and Jesus.
Week after week I would see Steve, he seemed to be seeking me out. Every time he remembered my name, remembered that I was sneaking Jesus and he always asked me how Jesus and I were doing.
Steve was the final step in a long journey to the foot of the cross for me. He introduced me to a Jesus that I am still desperately in love with. He showed me a Jesus that cared about the large and the small in my life and he showed me a Jesus that knew my name.
I was baptized at Cedar Creek in September 2003 and I would have loved nothing more than for Steve to do it. But he left in August. I saw him again a few months later at a church he was the guest speaker at. I gave him a hug and told him what a difference he made in my decision to follow Christ. He was so humble and so real.
That was the last time I saw him.
I think of Steve often, especially when I'm talking to people about how imperfect we are all in churches. I tell them that I knew a guy that told me he was an asshole and that introduced me to a Jesus that was perfect enough to cover the sins of every person in and out of a church.