Tuesday, January 27, 2009

My stumbling block

I read something really profound in a novel last week, and it’s been churning in the back of my mind ever since. The book is “The Seat Beside Me” by Nancy Moser, which tells the story of the survivors of a plane crash, and the impact the crash has on their lives and the lives of those around them. Incidentally, I enjoyed the book and give it a “thumbs up” recommendation, but that’s not why I am writing this.

There is a scene in the book where one of the crash survivors, Tina, is talking to Mr. Carpelli, the grandfather of Mallory, the girl who was sitting next to Tina when the plane crashed. Unlike Tina, Mallory did not survive the crash (sorry for that spoiler moment), and Tina and Mr. Carpelli are lamenting the opportunities they missed to share Jesus with Mallory while she was alive. In their conversation, Tina and Mr. Carpelli talk about why so often people chicken out when they have the chance to share Jesus with others. I read this scene in the book several times, and I thought about my struggles with sharing Jesus. Now, I do know people who seem to find it very easy to talk about Jesus with people they know or meet, but it has never been an easy thing for me; it's something I constantly struggle with. I want to share Jesus, and I believe with all my heart it is something I should do, but I feel I am just terrible at this, and too often, I let the chance to share just pass me by, and then I berate myself for another missed chance. I’m willing to bet others struggle with it too. I think Ms. Moser really understands how difficult this is, and she captured this struggle so well in this book; through her characters, I recognized myself in this scene from the novel in several ways:

First, I’m afraid of being thought of, or labeled as, a fanatic, a Jesus-freak. And this is especially true when it comes to talking about Jesus with people who knew me before I became a Christian. In my mind, it’s like throwing down a gauntlet. I can be having a pleasant conversation with someone, but when the conversation turns to Jesus, it’s like drawing a line in the sand; if the other person shares that they are a believer too, then it becomes a unifying thing, there’s an instant bond there. But if the person I’m talking with is not a believer, then instantly there is a perceived division, walls go up, and we are on opposite sides of the most important question we face. It seems to me that just the mention of Jesus compels one to take a stance; I’ve never met anyone who is truly indifferent or neutral about Jesus, although I suppose they may exist. I've only encountered believers and non-believers. And honestly, I've never had someone say "...Oh yes, I want to hear about Jesus! Please tell me more!" Nope. What I typically see is a look of dread as they start looking around for a way to get out of the conversation.

Second, I am afraid of rejection – rejection of me, but even worse, rejection of Christ. Moser’s character cited a very interesting statistic in the book, namely that over 96% of the world believes in God, so there is little risk of rejection simply from mentioning God in a conversation. How often do we talk with someone about God in vague generic terms, without pressing to see if the person we are talking to is really on the same page? We tell people “God bless you” when they sneeze, we may even tell them things like “God loves you” or “God can work things out”, or many other such platitudes; I know I am guilty of this! But I know I must not stop there, content to talk with people about God without talking about Jesus. I need to get past my fears to tell people that Jesus is God’s Son, that He was born with the specific purpose of dying for our sins to restore us to a relationship with God, and that Jesus is not one of many ways to heaven; He is the only way! The book made a great analogy to a stand-up comedian. Would a stand-up comic not give the punch line to a joke because he is afraid the audience won’t laugh? Of course not! He gives the punch line and if they don’t laugh, at least he made the effort. Just because people may not (most often will not) respond the way I want them to doesn’t let me forego making the effort to talk to them about Christ. There was a great quote made by one of the characters in the scene: “…even if our hands tremble and our voice wavers while we stumble over the words, or even if our timing isn’t perfect, God can use our efforts. But He cannot use our silence.” To me, that is such a good thing to remember.

Lastly, I must not forget that that convicting people in their hearts of their need for a Savior is something only God can do, and that God may just want me to plant a seed, or to encourage a seed someone else has planted. It may be up to others to water, fertilize, or harvest these seeds later.

So while evangelism is not one of my gifts, it's not something I want to ignore and just leave up to everyone else. I heard a pastor once say "...shepherds don't make sheep, sheep make sheep", meaning that the church congregation cannot rely on the pastor to do all the evangelism and outreach. And yet, I feel like such a failure. It's really weighing on my heart lately as I have many lost family members, and I find it excruciatingly difficult to talk to any of them.

So, how about you? Is it easy for you to talk about Jesus? Can you share any secrets or suggestions?




His grace is sufficient. said...

I know what you mean. Sometimes I stuggle with sharing my faith in Jesus also. Other times it is not so hard. I have found to be some what easier the older I have gotten. It is also easier with children. They are always ready to hear about Jesus. Let's commit to pray for each other in this area of our lives that we will become more bold in our witness for Jesus Christ.
Your new found friend Linda

Cindy said...


It is hard for me to talk to people about Jesus. I seem to have an easier time with strangers than with members of my own family. I have cousins that want no part of Jesus and they get very combative when He is mentioned. I have learned that at this point, it creates conflict so I just pray for them.

I want to be bolder for Jesus.


Moose Mama said...

I know you wrote this ages ago, but I am newly convicted of not sharing Jesus because I don't want to mess it up. I've just finished week 5 of Esther. When you get there you may see yourself on the page that discussed the stronghold of perfectionism. I know I did. I wrote in the column on that day (pg. 112)..."Get out there and be his disciple!"

I tell myself I don't want to let Jesus down by saying the wrong thing, but in reality, I don't want to embarass myself if they roll their eyes at the mention of His name. He is everthing to me, Adrienne. I know you believe that too. I tell more people about you than I do about Jesus.

It's not about me!