I’ve discovered the best coffee shop in West Knoxville: Mojoe’s Trailside Coffee. I can’t handle the Starbucks near my house. It’s too small, always crowded, and not an ounce of Knoxville originality. So I was relieved when I recently discovered a locally-owned coffee shop just down the street from West High School. When I arrived there this afternoon I had the place to myself, excepting the owner who occupied a table across the room, complete with an open box of Wheat-thins, a cup of his own java, and a laptop in defragmenting mode (that’s his fault for buying a PC). He chose his favorite station of 1970s British invasion music, a station I would welcome any other time except the weeks preceding Christmas. Today, I was in the mood for some Advent and Christmas music, so I put my ear buds in and cranked up the volume on my Mac (not in defragmenting mode). For an hour or so, I read a few articles online and responded to a handful of emails while listening to the cathedral choir on my playlist compete with Led Zeppelin, The Who, and Pink Floyd. I was thoroughly enjoying a lovely, low-key afternoon in a coffee shop that is becoming a good haven for me when things are crazy in the Apostles office.
And then West High School students walked through the door carrying teenage drama on their wings.
Instantly Robert Plant could not be heard anymore. He’s no match for a few irritated West High sophomores. Now there’s an acoustic showdown between the latest installment of what the Mean Girls of West High School are doing and, well, The King’s College Cathedral Choir singing their glorious rendition of Franz Biebel’s Ave Maria (someone sound the nerd alert). As the plot of the West High drama thickens, Mojoe’s gets louder (John Bonham’s drumming has never been quieter), and I reach for the F12 button on my Mac–more Ave Maria, less Mean Girl drama.
And then the Holy Spirit whispered into my spirit on the second blup blup sound of my Mac increasing its volume. I’m tuning out the world of teenagers because they’re interfering with my ideal environment. A couple of sophomore girls and a young lad were a nuisance in my mind. I didn’t see them as my brother and sisters. I turned them into competition.
Only the guidance of the Holy Spirit kept me from maxing out the volume bar so that I could hear nothing but the King’s College Choir in my safe, protected Advent environment. I stopped after that second blup and heard the Lord assure me that I needed both sounds in my ears. One sound should not drown out another in this place. There should be no opposition here, no competition. The sound of praise and the sound of angst belong in the ears of an attentive Christian watching for the coming Christ.
I realized today that I’m not only looking for the coming of Christ this Advent. As I listened to the climbing rhapsody of Ave Maria I realized that I’m looking for his Mother, too. I’m not naive about the girls carrying on their conversation across the room from me either. I wasn’t listening to the blow by blow events, but it was obvious that there was an absence of an humble, reverent spirit in the tone and manner of their conversation. Nothing about them would remind me of the Holy Virgin. But perhaps the heart of Mary is not absent, but hidden and concealed within these girls. Perhaps it’s been beaten down by the harshness of a high school world that can be downright cruel. Maybe underneath the melodrama there is fear and pain. How ironic that I was trying to drown out Mean Girl drama with a beautiful hymn revering Mary’s role in the drama of the Incarnation. The Spirit has revealed spiritual blindness to me this Advent season and today he revealed my spiritual deafness–and a willing deafness at that.
Yet in the midst of my snobbish irritation in the back corner of Mojoe’s, I felt the tenderness of the Spirit open the way of repentance. I learned to pray for these girls. With hymns of holy reverence for the Virgin Mother, my ears were unstopped, my eyes were opened to see, and my lips were opened to pray for holiness in the midst of West High drama. From the cross, Mary’s crucified Son looked at John and said, “behold your mother.” Somehow in the mystery of communing with the saints, with the memory of Mary in my ears, I heard the Spirit say, “behold your sisters.” Yes, I am no different from you, my sisters. You in your melodrama and me in my arrogant spirit, both of us irritated in our souls. We all need the ancient drama written on our hearts anew: of Jesus Christ, conceived by the Holy Spirit, born of the Virgin Mary. Ave Maria, pray for us all.