I was sitting on my living room couch yesterday morning, wondering what I was going to do with myself in the first post-Olympic, post-family, post-everything-but-the-kitchen-sink summer day when my cell-phone rang. An old friend was calling from Portland, Oregon. Some sixth sense had told her my schedule had just opened up. We met when our first children were wee babes of 3 months and 3 weeks, respectively, shared meals, babysitting responsibilities, and helped each other toward better parenthood in those early years.
Now all our wee babies are adults in their twenties and she's been feeling somewhat over her head with them. So she was calling to ask if she could come up for a couple of days, just to talk about our kids the ways we used to when they were small and we could send them outside to play while we drank tea in our kitchen.
It's an interesting relationship I have with this woman. She's determinedly NOT a Christian. In fact, she hardly tolerates Christians. At least not in her 'real' life. However, for some reason, Beve and I have always been an exception to that. But I'm somewhat mystified as to why she allows for our obvious faith when she so patently argues and mocks others.'
Over the weekend, one of my girlfriends observed that we each have gifts and one of mine is being forthright about my Christianity (as she put it). I've been cogitating on that idea for the last several days. I'm not certain that this 'forthrightness' is some kind of extra-special gift. That is, I certainly don't have the gift of evangelism. When I was young, those who were ahead of me in the faith, often encouraged me (and others like me) that there was an imperative to witness for the gospel of Jesus Christ. That each of us bears this responsibility. In fact, it's THE imperative. And the words of Jesus, as reported by Matthew in the last chapter of the gospel that bears his name remind us that this IS true.
But here's the thing about that imperative: I don't ever even think about it. Not any more, that is. I don't talk about Jesus as a chore or because I'm trying to convince, convert or even just witness to those around me. I just talk about my life. As Peter and John said in Acts 4, "We can't help speaking about what we have seen and heard." I can't help it. Jesus is real. As real to me as anyone else in my life. So I talk about Him. About my relationship with Him. Just as I talk about my relationship with my kids or Beve or even (whoa!) my dad.
And perhaps that's why people respond without feeling like there's some kind of push. Some kind of argument. Or maybe it's because I've gone to seminary. That seminary degree gives me some kind of pass--
"she's one of those religious types..."
However, here's the real story. What we have to do--what I have to do--is honor and respect others. Whether they believe or not. My friend came north to speak of frustrations with her adult children. Though it is in me to speak of God's solution, the starting place is her own life. As always, earning the right to speak His truth by loving her exactly where she is. I've been foolish a time or thirty. Come up against brick walls. Watched those walls thrown up in an instant with a single word. So now I simply wait. Wait for the right moment, and His nudging. Today it came as we floated in our pool, and her eyes were full of unshed tears. Just for a moment she asked how we do it, how we manage to be so cool and at peace with the pain of what we're going through. And suddenly, there He was. Gentle as a whisper, as the breeze on the hot summer day. 'Say it,' He said. 'Tell her!' So I did.
"Only God," I told her. "You're probably stronger than I am, but I can't do it on my own. I need Him."
And she blinked once. Hard. "I don't think I am stronger than you...."
She didn't say anything else but that was more than she's ever said before.
It's a beginning.
I'll keep talking about Him...because He's in my life. Because I can't help it. And maybe that's exactly what He expects of us.