I walk away from so many conversations with ideas and regrets of things I wish I said, or what I ought to have said different. One Thursday evening I met a guy named Zeek, and our conversation did not end up that way at all.
I was walking past the McDonalds towards the park with Claire and Jess late on a Thursday afternoon when we were stopped by a guy wanting to sell us something. There was loneliness in his words as he began his story. He said he was from Maine, and had driven his Winnebago out of the winter into the sunshine, and then back again into the gloomy fog that looms over the SF peninsula. He said he was looking for some kids he could trust to join him on the road up the coast through Oregon, and wondered if we were the kids. He said he studies philosophy, does a little music, some poetry, and was a bad writer, but all he really knew how to do was sell dope. Jess wondered if he could sell other things. He said His father was a sales man, and he thought he could but thought it hard selling things he did not believe in.
The conversation wandered through learning that his father was protestant, and he was trying to figure out what he believed. I was surprised because he had some very Jewish seeming features. He said that when he was thirteen he felt it was time to own his own belief, and so he began reading and studying different ways of thought, and that he had basically collected a lot of ideas from many different places and had put a bunch of them into a big pot of soup.
That prompted me to ask him what he was searching for, and followed up before he could answer with another question, "What are the qualities of something that made them authentic?" He struggled with this question, and said he really found himself to be an agnostic and a skeptic. So he did not know what makes something real or true. He wondered if it was that many people believed it, or was it that he believed it? I told him that I was sure we could find some guy out in this park who thought he was Paris Hilton, but we would both know that was not true. I asked him again personally what made something authentic to him, and what was he searching for. He said he found the question stunning, and said that was something he really needed to think about.
Then he asked us how we came to our convictions. We told stories of having grown up in the church, but at 13 plugged into our youth groups. For Jess, she said that in high school she received a really strong conviction to get serious with her faith, and I gave further testimonies of God's provision and faithfulness in many times of need when I had stepped out into the unseen out of obedience.
He seemed to really be intrigued but our conversation soon ended. He said we had really challenged him to think about what it was he was searching for, and that his best guess of where he would look for an answer would be according to the laws of the world, such as the laws of physics for instance. Before he left, he said that he did wish he had the certainty to know when he was walking in the right way and when he was not. I gave him the last word and we parted.
Two weeks later Jess saw him again, and he had this wild story that happened the evening after we met him. He lost his dog and then met Christians in the park, while looking for his dog. They gave him Pizza, and then all surrounded him and began to pray. It really freaked him out, and he would have left, but he heard a voice tell him that every thing was going to be okay. Then he felt peace like he had never felt before. He found his dog again, and went to bed feeling some sort of amazing peace. He thought his life would never be the same after that. He was surprised to wake up the next morning feeling normal again. He was discouraged, but really wanted to talk to us. Jess invited him to our Amigos bible study. He was excited, but then he never came. Two more weeks went by and then we ran into him again. He seemed to be preoccupied with something but told us he had been busted for selling dope and had been to jail. We continue to keep an eye out for him every time we are in the park, hoping to continue that work we hope that perhaps the Lord has begun.