I started my morning today with a breakfast burrito, blessed by a Jehovah’s Witness elder. But this wasn’t just any Jehovah’s Witness elder, he is my friend, George, who I’ve been meeting with regularly for a Bible study. And yes – to reiterate – I’m Agnostic. But this has become one of the most enjoyable parts of my week.
Every day that we meet, George tries to surprise me with a coffee shop I haven’t yet been to since I’m new to town. He hasn’t succeeded yet. I really like coffee.
Today I repaid him for buying me breakfast last week, with a coffee from Greenberry’s, a popular coffee shop in Harrisonburg. We took our coffee back to the kingdom hall and talked for a while before getting into the studies. He told me he wants to learn to play guitar, and I offered to give him lessons.
“It’s an exchange, you teach me about the Bible and I’ll teach you guitar.”
He was overjoyed at the idea. It looks like we’ll be getting to know each other even better soon enough.
After discussing the possibilities for a few more minutes, I took out my New World Translation Bible, and we began to read. On the whole, our conversation was much like the weeks before. He brought up the proofs for the Bible, I questioned them, and we discussed. But today something else happened, which was unexpected.
As we talked about what it means to be a good person and to be a “wicked” person, he brought up a fascinating point, one which he didn’t even realize was fascinating.
“When a wicked person has done something, a good person, no matter how good they are, cannot change that. They cannot truly right the wrong. But here, in the Bible, it says that God can.”
It was a relatively simple thought and one that I had heard before in my childhood training as a non-denominational protestant. But today I noticed something different.
“George, that concept rings true with a concept in psychology. When something horrible has happened to someone, someone else, no matter how good, can never get rid of that. It has been imprinted on their mind.”
Having known several people with PTSD, the thought was quite encouraging. Even if I have no idea about the nature of God, it’s nice to know that this man believes that God intends to permanently erase those memories, in a way that I, or any other person, never could.
“Daniel, that is a concept I have never considered. You know, that’s why I enjoy these conversations with you.”
I have brought new insight to the Bible for my friend. Somehow, my Agnostic mind has encouraged the faith of my Jehovah’s Witness friend. It happens twice more throughout the conversation. It seems we both have something to teach the other.
As has happened every day towards the end of our meetings, someone comes into the kingdom hall and calls out a greeting.
“Hey, mama!”, George replies, “that’s my mama.”
His mother comes into the room, decked out in pink sun hat and glasses, and sits down at the table. She doesn’t miss a beat, and before I know what’s happening, her Bible is out, and she has joined the Bible study.
At the end of the Bible study she extends an invitation.
“You need to come to one of our meetings sometime! We’ve got a seat saved for you. Two if your wife wants to come!”
It’s a genuinely warm invitation, but I’m really not ready to attend a service. Who knows, maybe someday I will be comfortable enough with this community to attend a service with no concern over my faith title, but at the moment, I gratefully decline.
I leave the kingdom hall feeling like I have every day. These are good people. I cannot wait for our next meeting.
More updates will follow as we continue to meet. Hopefully, my experiences can help others to feel more comfortable around members of other religions, or at least have an interesting weekly read. Follow my blog to get regular updates, and see what else I’m up to. Thanks for reading!