I settle into my rocking chair with a steaming cup of tea. My children are playing in the driveway, still in their PJ’s (yes I’m that mom) because this Saturday morning sunshine streaming through curtained windows demanded to be enjoyed. The sky is the type of blue that clears your mind in the eternity of blueness going ever upward to where it meets the dim reality of space. Up my driveway come two people in their sunday best, smiling and respectful, bibles and pamphlets in hand. I try not to let a brief flash of annoyance across my face. I’m not one of those people who hates talking to Jehovah’s Witnesses, I usually take what they’re giving out and say goodbye politely. But today I wanted to sit, drink my tea, breathe in fresh air and just be. As they begin to talk I think about just saying “I’m sorry I believe Jesus is Jehovah” because that is the most foolproof method of ending the conversation (your welcome for that tip). But something stops me. . . oh I know Lord you want me to witness to them, that’s it. And so I engage them in conversation, searching the reaches of my mind for the bible passages that prove I’m right, something about angels not accepting worship but Jesus accepting it.
But as we talk I get frustrated. They’re not listening to me. They have no interest in my story, my hesitancy at the fact that only 144,000 of them get into heaven. My questions are dismissed with a “yes but . . . .” My cares are waved away. I get annoyed that no matter what I say, what issues I have they have a pat answer ready. A script, if you will, to explain away my difficulty’s. We end in a polite but shaky truce. They walk down my driveway and up my neighbors, ready to enter into their spiel and that’s when it hits me. I’ve been that.
Now I’ve never been one for proselytizing in malls. I don’t think the question “If you were to die tonight where would you spend eternity?” has ever crossed my lips. I always scored low on evangelism on the spiritual gifts test. But I still have approached people as projects. I remember dutifully studying good responses to doubts people have about becoming a Christian. I thought I was supposed to “always have an answer.” It had never occurred to me to listen to someone else’s story. I never would have admitted any of this, I thought I was a great friend to my non-christian friends. And in some ways I was, when I forgot I was supposed to be “winning them for Christ” and loved them the way Jesus taught me to love. But I still cringe at the flippant answers I gave my gay friend when he asked me about homosexuality in the bible. I want to bite my tongue out at the some of my answers to my friend’s pain, how unaware I was of how prevalent sexual abuse, physical abuse, heartbreak, racism, loneliness, pain and fear is. I knew nothing and I thought I had the key to the universe because I memorized some bible verses.
Slowly the Spirit is changing me. I think the work of God is everywhere. I think some hackneyed questions, when asked in obedience to the Holy Spirit’s prompting can open doors to life and relationships. But I don’t think God is using me that way. I’m learning slowly to talk a little less. I’m learning to be honest in my uncertainty. I’m learning that Jesus is enough for me when theology leaves my soul gasping. I’m becoming friends, real friends with people who have different views of God than me. Or no views of God. I’m learning to ask them questions and allow myself to be fascinated by their answers. I’m learning that things are much more difficult than I ever thought. I’m learning that there is no fear in love. If I allow myself to be afraid of an author, or an atheist, movies or a Muslim, I have shut off a channel of love in my life. I’m learning to sit in my rocking chair on a sunny summer day and to listen.