Cafeteria Conversations

school Cafeteria Conversations

From the the book, Mightier Than a Lion. Find links to three more stories in the collection here.

“It was a killer,” Tasha said.

As we continued comparing notes our friend Ali joined our table, along with
a new girl I’d never seen before.

“Hey! Christy, Tasha. This is Shel,” Ali said. “She just transferred from a
school in St. Petersburg.”

“Ugh,” I groaned. “From Florida to Indiana. I’m sorry.”

Shel chuckled. “I’m used to it. We move a lot ’cause of my Dad’s job,” Shel

“Welcome,” I said, popping an orange slice into my mouth.

“You going to youth group tonight?” Tasha asked me.

“Yeah, I’ll be there,” I said.

“So what’s that all about?” Shel interjected. “It’s Wednesday. If you go to
church on Saturday, why isn’t that enough?”

I cleared my throat, a bit taken aback by her line of questions just
moments after having met her. “I’m confused. Are you asking me why we go to
church twice a week?”

“More like why do you go at all? Christianity is so out-of-date,” Shel
said, rolling her eyes.

My jaw tightened. The moment felt surreal. What would compel a total
stranger to sit down at my table and within 30 seconds start attacking my

I glanced over at Tasha, who was clearly uncomfortable. She kept her eyes
cast downward and her mouth busy by munching her salad. Then I shot Ali a
look that said, What were you thinking inviting this girl to lunch?

Not one to enjoy confrontation, I followed Tasha’s lead and chose not to
engage. It was a quiet and awkward meal, but at least I didn’t get into a

I was sure Shel would find a different group of people to sit with the
following day, but she didn’t. In fact, she came back every day, sat in the
same spot, and came at me with the same questions. It was as if she enjoyed
ruffling feathers. After a week of her anti-Christian tirades I couldn’t
stay silent anymore.

“I take it you don’t go to church,” I said as I bit into my sandwich.

Shel sputtered. “Hardly. I mean, my aunt and uncle dragged me along with
them a time or two, but it’s so ridiculous. I mean, really. Who are we
worshipping, anyway?”

Was that a trick question?
I wondered.

“I don’t believe in God,” Shel continued. “This world is so messed up.
Everywhere you look there’s misery, poverty, sickness, death, violence. No
loving God would let all that happen. Why would you want to worship a God
who allows such awful things?”

This was too much to really explain over a lunchtime conversation, but I
thought I’d try to scratch the surface.

“All of that pain is because we live in a fallen world,” I said. “Do you
know the story of Adam and Eve?”

“The lizard and the apple?” Shel asked.

Close enough.

“Well, yes, in the Garden of Eden the serpent tempted Eve . . .”

“I know, I know. It’s all the woman’s fault! Spare me!” Shel huffed.

I took a sip of water and a deep breath.

“No, I didn’t say that,” I replied.

“Don’t try to change my mind,” Shel insisted. “I don’t wanna hear it.”

My heart raced. Oh, how I missed the easy-breezy conversations I used to
have during lunch. I glanced around the cafeteria in search of an open
table to move to. But then an overwhelming calm washed over me. Perhaps God
plopped this girl smack in the middle of my lunch table for a reason.

So I decided to speak my mind and share my faith—not in a hostile way. I
was gentle in my approach, and she didn’t shut me down.

As we continued talking the next day, Shel opened up a bit, and I learned
that her mother had died when she was in middle school. It was a pain that
had affected her deeply—and rightfully so. As a result, she still carried
around a great deal of anger and bitterness. She blamed God.

I wasn’t about to throw a bunch of Scripture at her, but I did share one
relevant verse: Acts 14:22, which states, “We must go through many
hardships to enter the kingdom of God” (NIV).

“Life can be so difficult, Shel, but the wonderful thing about Christ is
that He’s available 24/7 to walk beside us,” I said. “That means that even
in our darkest days, we’re not alone.”

Shel’s lower lip started quivering.

“You really believe that?” she asked softly as tears trickled down her

“I do. And here’s another cool thing,” I added. “God is waiting for you any
time you want to approach Him. In fact, He’s around you even when you don’t
want Him near you.”

I braced myself for a clever comeback or rude retort, but instead she sat
in stunned silence, taking it all in.

“You think He’s here now?” she whispered.

“Absolutely,” I said.

We continued chatting at lunch for the remainder of the school
year—sometimes about random school stuff, other times about things related
to faith.

At the end of May Shel transferred again, so I never knew what became of
her convictions. I do recall our last conversation together, though. I
wished her well, and she thanked me for our lunch “convos.”

“I have to say,” she told me, “I like the idea of having Someone who comes
along with me every time I move. That’s pretty cool.”

“It is, isn’t it?”

“Yeah,” Shel said. “Because this time moving doesn’t seem so scary.”

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Cafeteria Conversations

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