By Dave Priskorn
Being raised Lutheran, Christianity to me was nothing more than rules and traditions. Say a scripted prayer before dinner, go to confirmation classes, go to church where there are more scripted responses; this was the version of God my parents bestowed upon me. Having attended a Lutheran school until 3rd grade, I could have told you more about the Bible when I was eight years old than I could today. I should feel a little ashamed of this fact, but I’m not. At that point in my life, the Bible was grades and memorization rather than a guide to experience God and His Love.
This mindless repetition continued until I was about fourteen. At this point in my life, my parents told my siblings and me that they were getting divorced. The family stopped attending church together, and though I identified as a Christian, it was no longer a part of my life. About a year later my father came out to me as gay, and this sent me further into a personal tailspin. At this age, most teen boys are working to identify who they are. I was now working to identify who I was, and what family and religion meant to me.
The search continued through my teens. One of my best friends (to this day) was really involved in a youth group. I would attend with him, but to me, this was a social event, not a spiritual growth engine. I met a lot of great people, people who would become lifelong friends and shape my religious experience, but I wasn’t there yet. These people began to challenge my beliefs and actions and ultimately opened me up to the place I needed to be to lay the groundwork for a mature faith.
When I was twenty years old, my connections led me to a job in a local coffee shop. The owner, Doug, was a leader in the youth group, and I went to high school with his son. The connection was strong enough that I walked in and was hired on the spot. I excelled working with Doug and a lot of the same people I went to youth group with. I was made a manager within a month and worked my way into a core group of people helping operate Doug’s shop. There was a huge sense of pride.
Over the months to follow (ultimately, I worked for Doug for two years) Doug and I developed a different relationship. While the shop was slow and we were working on downtime tasks, Doug would start to talk to us about the Bible. This wasn’t really a teaching exercise; this was a dialogue. I had never really had this experience. Doug cared about my thoughts, my interpretations, and listened with his whole heart. This openness laid the groundwork to open me up to feel like I had my own power to develop my own beliefs. Nothing was handed to me; I was being challenged and encouraged. Doug’s reception to my thoughts in turn opened me up to being equally open to his input. It felt more like symbiosis than almost anything I have experienced to this day.
The hours on shift turned to weeks, turned to months, turned to years. My relationship with Doug and with God flourished. I had a foundation on which I could build my own faith. This flowered into more opportunities to connect with like-minded men and create our own traditions. We held Bible studies that surrounded a bonfire and included enjoying cigars and conversation together. This then led to me choosing my own baptism as an adult. I had found my own way on my own terms.
When I went for a job with Doug I wasn’t looking for God, but God found me. I wish I could tell you that since then it has been a straight path and I’ve done nothing but grow; it hasn’t been and I haven’t. However, when I’ve been down, I’ve always gone back to that same foundation and basis that was built with Doug. Above all else, my time with Doug showed me that no matter where I am at, God will find me when I need Him. Even in a coffee shop.
Thank you, Doug.