The clock above the blackboard froze at 11:50, and my early-morning instant breakfast was long gone. The late October sun shined through the third-period World History class, challenging me to stay awake; But I was losing. Ring…. Ring…. Finally, lunch!
Sidestepping through the busy hallway with lockers opening and slapping shut, a shout, “Hey, Bryan!” rose above the controlled chaos. Mike was a friend since junior high and a regular lunch buddy. “I’ll meet you at the flagpole,” he said as he weaved in and out, passed the trophy case toward the double doors.
Walking across the street to the small shopping center for lunch was as much a social gathering as it was a time to fill up on Heath bars, Dr. Pepper, and chips or the occasional hot dog. Sometimes tires screeched from a guy showing off his ride. Groups walked, laughing, catching up, acting like teenagers. Even though Sunnyside was a rural farming community in Eastern Washington, it could’ve been any small town across America in 1972. Woodstock happened three years earlier on the other side of the country, but its fingerprints had changed the fabric of the youth culture everywhere. Even here.
I prided myself that my hair was finally shoulder length and the tie-dyed tee shirt made at home proved my hippiness. I still remember some years back the day dad said, “Son, you’re old enough now to decide how you want your haircut.” He and mom loved me enough to choose their battles and hair length wouldn’t be one of them. Pop, my grandfather; short, bald, with one glass eye, but always a twinkle in his good one, would have the same greeting for me on each of my visits. He’d give me a big hug, and a gentle tug on my hair, “How’s my favorite grand-daughter?” Then chuckle.
Mike and I closed in on the mainstay of high school life, The Grizzly Drive-In. Named for the school mascot, standing proudly, stuffed at over eight feet and enclosed in glass by the trophy case. The line was six or seven deep at the take-out window, but it was the guy standing over by the sidewalk with an arm full of papers that drew my attention. “I’ll meet you over there,” I said, as my buddy headed toward the smell of burgers.
Harry was in his early twenties. Jeans, short hair, and a disarming smile. He was obviously a stranger to the campus, and like a moth to flame, I was drawn in. Handing his paper to another student, we made eye contact. It was too late to turn back.
He stuck out his hand and shook mine, “Hi, my name is Harry. Do you know Jesus?” My mind whirled, searching for the words to say. I was president of my youth group. I attended a conservative denominational church for all my life. I went Wednesdays, Sundays, morning and night. Of course I knew Jesus! “Yes, I go to church in Grandview,” was all I could get out. Smiling, he began to share his testimony, but there was an electricity, a power in his words that I’d never experienced before. At the end, he gave me an invitation, “I go to Jesus Lives, in Grandview. We have a coffee shop, with meetings on Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday nights at 7:00 o’clock. Come and check it out.” I headed back to class with Mike and a copy of ‘His Ways’ in my hand, a hippie—looking newspaper with Jesus on the front page. My mind was spinning.
A week later, Dad parked our car down the block. I was still in denial after telling him about my encounter with Harry. “I’ll go down there with you if you want to go,” he responded, with a sense of adventure in his eyes We walked toward the old JC Penney building with butcher paper over the big, front windows, hoping the rumors were false. Rumors that strange things were going on down there, and the reason for the butcher paper? Hippies danced around naked to loud music. I knew Mom would be so mad if Dad and I came back with a report of naked, dancing hippies!
The closer we got, the louder it became. We heard music. We heard the pounding of drums, and people singing. Too late to turn back. I twisted the old doorknob and entered a world I’d never seen before. Was it possible to be so scared and so excited at the same time?
Dad gave me a reassuring smile as we made our way to a couple of empty, folding chairs in the back. I started taking it all in. Guys with long hair, young families with moms holding babies, girls in floor-length, flowered hippie dresses. They were all standing, lifting their hands toward the front of the large, high-ceilinged room—worshipping God. They resembled fields of wheat rolling and moving with an unseen breeze and force. In my church experience, if someone would’ve said “amen,” or lifted a hand during a hymn, I do believe an ambulance would’ve been dispatched for the poor soul having some sort of seizure.
In all honesty and for the rest of the evening, I was on sensory overload. I knew something was happening in me. Something that would change the way I related to this God and the liturgy of my past church background.
Before the evening ended, three things happened that would be pivotal in my journey in life and serving Jesus. Soon after getting to our seats, I looked up toward the front and there was Harry. He was playing an old upright piano and when we made eye contact, his eyes lit up the same way they did when I met him at The Grizzly Drive-In. Next, I recognized one of the girls toward the front as a junior. Her name was Joan. She had long, blond hair down to her waist and captured my full attention. After the meeting and our visit, she invited me to her high school prayer-at-noon group. But that’s another story. Lastly, on our way home that night, Dad said something that would be my guiding force. He said, “Son, what you’re searching for, you’ll find it down at that place.”
And I did! Now, forty-six years later, I’m serving Jesus. All because of a God thing at The Grizzly Drive-In.
You never know where your heartfelt question will lead or how it will change a life.
Whose hand do you need to shake this week?
Who do you need to invite to church?
Let's get out there and ask some people if they know our great savior Jesus!