I was always a shy kid. I hated meeting new people and the thought of speaking to strangers was … so hard! But right after I surrendered to Jesus, I had lots of amazing conversations with friends and total strangers about the radical change that had just taken place in my life. Whether outside of a class, boarding a plane, or standing in a checkout line, I couldn’t wait to meet them and start our conversation. I didn’t think of this as an obligation. Nobody told me to do this, I just couldn’t contain my joy and amazement at what God had done in my life. I wanted to share Jesus with everyone.
My wonder at God’s manifest mercy in my life has never cooled. I am as grateful today as I ever was. But as I became more involved in church and small groups, finding more Christian friends, entering a Christian marriage, starting a Christian family, working in a Christian school, I found fewer and fewer opportunities to talk with people who didn’t share my experience of God’s amazing love.
Then one day I realized I didn’t have any friends who weren’t believers. And that seemed normal. Except … there was that little verse in Matthew 28 about going to the ends of the earth and making disciples. The Great Commission. There was That.
Convicted about my isolation from the ‘world,’ I began to pray for the people living around me. Conveniently, at that time we had a dog who needed to go out for a walk after the kids were in bed so I would walk up and down the street, praying for our neighbors. The people living in the houses on our block were all strangers to me. That made them … scary, intimidating.
But in answer to those prayers, God began to highlight for me opportunities to share my life with the women on my block. Births or deaths, holidays or hospitalizations, I found ways to participate in the lives that were being lived all around me. And I decided just to be myself. I talked with them the same way I talked with my Christian friends.
I talked about the Lord in a matter-of-fact way. I felt that I needed to be about one controversial issue only, and that was the gospel. I didn’t try to talk them into my views on abortion or women’s liberation or gay rights. I was all about Jesus. If evangelism was fishing, then this was fly-fishing. What are they biting today? Just gentle words dropped here and there into the pool of our conversation.
I thought that God would use my strength to meet them in their weakness, but to my amazement it was my weakness that really solidified our relationships. I was sent to bed for five months during my last pregnancy and these women started bringing meals, ferrying my kids around, walking my dog. What?? I was supposed to serve THEM!
I was learning to love these wonderful women. And they loved me. We shared our yards, our coffee, our tears, … our lives. They were no longer strangers. They had become friends. And one by one my friends started coming into relationship with Jesus. What a joy!
But what about those strangers I used to look for on the plane and in the checkout line? I’ll tell you about them next month!