I'm going to tell you a story and I will warn you - it's not exactly a happy one. It's not a tale of sweet daisies and sunshine. Okay, so there was sunshine but not in the metaphorical sense.
So thanks to Madeline's inspiring post and the teaching we'd been having in the College and Career class sunday mornings, I was really feeling called to witness to someone. I kept passing people and having brief contacts, like with a woman in the bathroom at Target and I kept almost going there, beginning words in my mind, but never quite making it through.
One of the things I'd heard in class that just stuck out like the Eiffel Tower in my mind was this phrase, "You are free to go and love people." The Gospel frees me from slavery to other people's opinions to do the most loving thing I could for them - tell them about Jesus.
Then, flash to Caribou. I'm sitting there in the sunshine, drinking my hot cinnamon spice tea and reading my Intercultural Communication textbook and this gal comes by and she pretty much epitomizes openness. She sits down right next to me in an armchair and we chat a bit about the weather and where she lived. We kept talking a bit and there was actually another woman sitting one armchair away from us and she joined in the conversation for a moment which made it even more of a daring jump for me to ask her about her religious background. But I did it.
Now I wish this had been a beautiful, spiritual inspirational encounter and I could say I led her through the ten commandments, she realized her failings before God and she asked, "What must I do to be saved?" and I told her, prayed with her and left her a tract.
But none of that happened. It just didn't. I felt like a fumble-muffin, sogging through a mire with a mind that wouldn't work. We got meshed in discussion about Bible translations and the authenticity of Scripture and part of me was just crying, thinking I want to hear your story! Don't tell me what you believe, tell me where you've been, tell me the hurt places and please, please let me tell you about the Healer.
We never got that far. She kept arguing with me, almost absolutely opposed and oppressed by the absolutes that people like me kept trying to fit her worldview and her 'Higher Power' into the Bible. She finally said with more than a hint of irritation, "Look, I was planning to come here to enjoy reading my book, not get into some big theological discussion with someone who will never understand my worldview."
I backed off: my feelings were hurt and I was unsure whether more talk would help or hurt. We had some more small discussion and I learned her name. Joanne. I learned she was also a single mom. Although she didn't want to make absolute decisions or carry her beliefs to their logical end, I have one weapon to use and I will. I'm praying for Joanne and her dear five-year-old Alexandria.
Almost always after I witness to someone, I feel sick - even physically sick, shaky with weird feelings in my stomach, a tightness in my shoulders and a dread. I believed in spiritual warfare before today, but this experience makes me believe it even more. When I came home from the coffee shop, I felt so scared, defeated and battered that I went downstairs to my room and waited for God. I bowed down low and prayed. I bowed and yes, I was crouching low to protect myself from Satan and his lies, but I also bowed to surrender all the events and feelings and seeming failure. I bowed down low because I was begging that God would give me a trust in him that surpassed my understanding of the situation.
God told me some things. He told me he loves it when his daughter hears his voice and witnesses in the midst of fear. He also reminded me of the fact that he often uses several encounters with the Gospel to save people. Maybe I was one of those encounters for Joanne. Maybe this cloudy story has sunshine coming.
Thanks for reading, friends. This has been weighing heavily on me and I'm glad I could write it down.
Listening to NeedToBreathe - Lay 'Em Down (Yeah, I'm learning how. Love these guys and their enthusiasm.)
all you sinners and the weak at heartall you helpless on the boulevard
bring all of your troubles, come lay 'em down