I was recently at a coffee shop chatting with a friend and a man came to sit at the table near us. Feeling his stares, we both turned to him with a questioning look. “Would you ladies mind if I drew you for practice?” He pointed to a large sketch pad and pencil. We agreed, and about 30 minutes later when we got up to leave, he held out his drawing of us. Delighted at his talent, I encouraged his perseverance in art and turned to leave. My friend, however stood still and bluntly asked him a question. “Do you know the Lord Jesus Christ?” I admit, I was embarrassed and uncomfortable. I wasn’t used to such blatant evangelization. People nearby turned their heads to listen in and I silently prayed for her to wrap it up so we could leave.
For a long time I considered this as the only way we Christians could share our faith, and it turned me off the whole idea. As a follower of Jesus, I know that we are commanded to “go and make disciples of all the nations”; this isn’t an option. However, for years I chose to ignore this command because, let’s face it. I care way too much what people think of me. I could never be that bold. My reaction that day in the coffee shop was shameful, but a small seed was planted that day, what would mature when the time was right.
Thankfully the Lord has ways of bringing certain topics around again when we are ready. Recently I was studying Acts chapter 16 and it dawned on me that the aggressive brand of evangelization I had experienced was NOT the only way we are able to reach out to others in the world. It was the story of Paul and Silas in prison that taught me my preconceived notions of witnessing were inaccurate.
I highly recommend reading the chapter for yourself in order to place this passage into proper context, but here is a snippet:
About midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the prisoners were listening to them, and suddenly there was a great earthquake, so that the foundations of the prison were shaken. And immediately all the doors were opened, and everyone’s bonds were unfastened. When the jailer woke and saw that the prison doors were open, he drew his sword and was about to kill himself, supposing that the prisoners had escaped. But Paul cried with a loud voice, “Do not harm yourself, for we are all here.” And the jailer called for lights and rushed in, and trembling with fear he fell down before Paul and Silas. Then he brought them out and said, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” And they said, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved, you and your household.” And they spoke the word of the Lord to him and to all who were in his house. And he took them the same hour of the night and washed their wounds; and he was baptized at once, he and all his family. Then he brought them up into his house and set food before them. And he rejoiced along with his entire household that he had believed in God.Acts 16:25-34
Notice that up until this point, Paul and Silas had not been sitting in their cells trying to convert every single prisoner and guard. They had not been preaching, or shoving pamphlets in their faces, or aggressively asking about religious beliefs. They were simply praising God and singing, doing their own thing. They were basking in the joy that comes from knowing God’s greater plan was at work whether they were inside or outside the prison walls.
What I love about this story, and why it gives me so much hope for my shy, terrified-to-share self is that while the seeds of faith were planted by faithful humans just doing their part, God orchestrated the larger circumstance of the earthquake to bring those seeds of faith to sprout. The point is that direct witness (sitting someone down to recount the gospel) is NOT necessary all the time. And that is okay. Sometimes we are simply called to be ourselves wherever we happen to be.
My faith hasn’t changed since that day back in the coffee shop, but it has matured. It is strong enough to permit me to enter into the hard dark places with people at work. I can no longer sit nearby to hurting people, comfortable in my salvation bubble, while the ones close by are hurting. Nor am I a lion tackling a gazelle, leaving it dazed on its back with a pamphlet in its hand. I’m gently and lovingly being myself, constant, in my daily path. And when circumstances arise, I am there doing my thing, in full belief that His will WILL be done.