Wednesday, June 29, 2005

Who Is This Man?

Today, for a reason I can't explain, I pulled off of my "beaten path" and dined in one of Abilene's finer eating establishments, "The Branding Iron" I had never seen this place before, let alone eaten there. But I pulled over.

I entered the small, dark, greasy cafe and was immediately overcome by two things:

1. smoke
2. Sadness

The smoke was terrible. I mean it. Cope would have died before reaching the booth. There are casinos in Vegas with less smoke. The inside of Harold's pit on Sing Song weekend was less smoky. By the time my eggs made it to the table (they were raw enough to walk themselves there) my eyes had shriveled up and fallen out and I almost ate them, mistaking them for some type of sausage product) But despite the smoke what affected me most was the man that sat, slumped not more than several yards away.

The man was old and tired looking. He was doing his best to contribute to the Forrest fire air quality of the restaurant and must have polished off several packs while I was there. The look on his worn face stated that life had beat him up pretty bad and he was no longer interested in fighting back. It wasn't a look of disdain or depression but rather defeat.

Not being afraid of much, I went ahead and secretly shot a picture of my fellow patron with my phone. (see below -- bad quality -- I mean the room was smoky!) I really don't know why I even took the picture because I knew then that this man's face would never vacate my memory.

The question kept calling to me from within my soul, "who is this man?"

Other questions came: "Did he have a family?" "What did he want to be when he was seven?" "Did he ever know love?" "Could a face so full of hurt ever feel the hope of heaven?" "Had anyone ever told him the good news that there was one who valued him so much that he went to a hill outside of Jerusalem and did some eternal banking on behalf of his soul?

Then the questions became deeper:

"Was I supposed to come here to eat to see him?" "Should I get up and talk with him?" "Is he an angel?"

Other than to take a drag on his cigarette, the man never moved. Neither did I. I never spoke to him. I barely made eye contact.

The sad truth is that if he had just made his way into my smokeless church when I was sitting comfortably on the third row, I might have given him a hug.

If he had made his way into my Bible class on Sunday, I would have told him that good news.

If he would have found my website and paid me to come preach to him I would have done that too. But he didn't. He just sat there.

I finished my eggs and paid my bill. I returned home to take the second shower of my short day and rid my body of the curse of smelling like an ashtray. The smoke came off. The smell left.

The vision of this man still hasn't.

I hope it never does.


6 comments:

Matt said...

Joel-

I'm loving what you said today, even though it carries a strong sting.

It stings because I'm in the same place that you are lately. Somehow, all of the good stuff we experience in our closed communities needs to get translated into places like the Branding Iron.

Lets be praying and meditating about how that can happen.

Brandon Scott said...

awesome post. way better than the last one.

Val said...

Interesting fact: The Branding Iron is owned by a family who attends Highland.

Matt Maxwell said...

Joel,
Hey Man. Good Blog.
Did you know that the Branding Iron is owned by Drew Power's Dad.
Bryson and I eat there on Fridays. They have an awesome all you can eat catfish special.
They also have a great breakfast.

Kasey Lane McCollum said...

I love the Branding Iron. It can be a bit smokey but the hamburgers are great with homemade french fries. I know that wasnt the point of your post but i had to comment.

Joel Quile said...

Just to set the record straight, the meal I ate at the Branding Iron was delicious. I did make that joke about the eggs but that is how I ordered them and so you get what you ask for. While it was smokey, it was fun and the meal was great. Some of the best bacon and biscuts I've eaten in a while. The help was super nice and the place had a cool feel to it. I know this wasn't the point of my post but I did want to make sure that my smoke and eggs comment didn't put the place in a bad light. I'd recommend the Branding Iron to anyone. Especially if you, like me, ever get tired of the trendy chain restaurants and want something a little more real.