A Second Chance Is Still a Chance

7:30 AM

“Don’t splash the poor gentleman.”

My daddy said it as the swamp of cousins cannon balled into the pool. I’d never met this poor gentleman before, but yesterday’s swimmers had reported that he came out to the motel pool, reading a holy book, resting in a lounge chair, and was probably Hindu. Just a couple days before, on fire after another Grandmamma-provided theological book, I was itching to grab a passerby by the collar and wildly cry out, “Don’t you want to know Jesus too?” When I heard about the mysterious pool-sitter, I immediately felt that urge again. Maybe I wouldn’t grab him by the collar, but I would strike up an innocent religious conversation.

Face to face, now, I wasn’t so sure.

I’m shy. People try to convince me otherwise, but I’m completely happy to smile at a distance and go on reading my book. I’m content being by myself; I graciously give you the same benefit of the doubt; and thus embarrassing conversations—for both of us—are avoided. If we’re sitting side-by-side in a doctor’s waiting room, I will smile pleasantly and pointedly not say anything. I don’t like striking up conversations about the weather—much less religion.

That, of course, does not mean I won’t answer questions put to me. I’m not anti-social; I can carry a conversation. I just don’t want to be the one to start it. I don’t want to wrongly presume that you like being asked questions of a seventeen-year-old girl who looks like she comes from some huge wacko religious family.

Which is why I shudder at the idea of street evangelism, knocking on doors out of the blue, shoving tracts into people’s cold hands. I know we have the truth, but they don’t know it. I don’t appreciate Jehovah’s witness telling me what to believe, however nicely dressed and polite. Why on earth would a high-up there secularist care to listen to my spiel?

But that too is a bunch of bunk—evangelism isn’t supposed to be peddling of puppies, after all. It isn’t a popularity contest. We’re not selling anything or garnering one’s vote. We’re proclaiming. We’re sharing. We’re witnessing to something we’ve seen, heard, looked at and touched—figuratively speaking.

I believe that. Still. My experience with real-live witnessing has been chasing down people in Walmart or meeting someone you’ve never laid eyes on with, “Hi! Are you a Christian? You sure? Absolutely positive?” The Gospel, I understand, is supposed to be by nature a stumbling block for religious and secular alike. But the Gospel-bearer—he’s supposed to be blameless, shining as a light, giving no cause of offense. Me, I’m terrified my light is broken.

This argument was running through my head full-force when I entered the pool area. I didn’t want to swim. I wanted to share the Gospel. I was determined that if he’d just look up at me, I’d smile brilliantly and confidently say, “Hi! How are you? I was wondering what book it was you’re reading?” And then somehow, the conversation would turn to Jesus and I could unpreachily tell him how much I love my Savior—and how much He loves me.

But I was petrified.

What if he’s mentally saying holy prayers and I’d offend him by talking? What if children are supposed to be seen and not heard in his culture? What if he doesn’t want to talk about his beliefs? What if he’s heard about Christianity before? What if he’s totally satisfied with his religion? What on earth do I do then? (Mainly I was wondering, What if his religion forbids talking to young women in swimsuits?)

And then I knew that the jig was up. There wasn’t any way I was going to be able to pretend I was suave and confident enough to give even the remotest hint of the Gospel, even if I did squeak out a hello.

Despite all my fears, I was terribly disappointed when he put on his loafers, picked up his little holy book and unlatched the pool gate.

“I’m sorry, God,” my heart pounded. “Next time. If someone shows me how. If someone asks me a question first. Come to think of it, if I had a second chance, I’d talk to this gentleman too. I’m sorry. Give me another chance and don’t cross me off Your list quite yet.”

The gentleman stopped, shut the gate and sat back down on his lounge chair.

“Oh, my goodness,” I was thinking. “Just kidding.”

I was vividly afraid. I was afraid of catching his eye and saying hello. I was afraid of not saying anything, and just keep on dangling my legs in the water, wishing and wanting. He was very pensive, not unkind-looking at all. He kept adjusting his shoes, adjusting his book, adjusting his position. I held my breath each time, in case it signaled his exit from the pool area and my palpable fear.

In that stretch of perhaps forty-five minutes, I wondered: Wouldn’t it be ridiculous if he was curious about me and my family—if he saw converts in the making too? Wouldn’t it be awful and ironic if he was searching his holy book, not because he believed it, but because he didn’t know what else to believe? Wouldn’t it be laughable if he was one of those mile-a-minute talkers who only needed a question to get started? Wouldn’t it be terrible if he really wanted the truth and I was too afraid to share it with him?

He adjusted his little holy book, shuffled over to the gate, unlatched it, and without a backwards glance disappeared into the motel.

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10 impressions

  1. I've had those moments - except it didn't even cross my mind to share the gospel with that gentleman, I was rather too scared to even walk past him (he seemed so thoughtful and peaceful, I was afraid my flip flops squishing full of water might offend him).

    I hate that. Someone is standing right there and we think of a great excuse to crawl out of it. I can positively say I have never really witnessed to anyone. Well, sorta...with younger girls, but not really.

    For example, one girl overheard me talking to a friend about my conviction to start a Bright Lights group.

    "What's Bright Lights?"

    I eagerly (too eagerly, I think) told her what it was...As soon as I said something about encouraging young ladies for the Lord, she said with disapointment,

    "Oh."

    Ouch. Slap in the face. I clammed up and changed the subject, hurt that it had no impact (what was I expecting?)

    They'll think I'm a dork. They'll say something amazingly smart and I won't have an answer. I goof it up and tell everything backwards.

    Well, if I would stop and think about the paragraph I just wrote, normally we don't think up the words when we talk. Someone Else does...why on earth are we terified?

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  2. Sharing my faith is SO hard for me too. I'm not the kind to just waltz up to someone and ask them if they believe in Jesus Christ as the Savior for their sins. Its tough.

    I've been flying recently and God gave me the chance to talk with a young married couple who were sitting next to me. I was flying out of Las Vegas and they wanted to know if I had "won big". I was able to explain I hadn't come out west to gamble, but to help at a Christian camp for a week. I wasn't able to share the Gospel outright, but I tried to keep the conversation on good things and share my love for God with them. I wish the flight had been longer and we all hadn't stopped talking to take naps... but I'm still grateful to have been able to share my faith with them and I pray that something I said made a lasting impression.

    I understand your fear though... I'll be doing more flying later this year by myself... maybe God will give me another (and another and another) chance to share His life-changing, soul-saving Gospel.

    Thank you for sharing your heart. This isn't something only you struggle with.

    God bless!
    Rachel

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  3. I, too, wish to share with others, but don't always get up the gumption. One thing I thought of, though, reading Bethany's comment... if I goof up, or can't think of a brilliant answer, that just shows what a great God I have! He was willing to save me and love me, even though I would possibly make a fool of myself while trying to tell others about Him! I so don't deserve Him when I don't even tell others about Him!

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  4. Talking about religious beliefs to strangers is always kind of scary. For anyone. I really try to avoid arguing with people about it mostly because I know I probably won't win in an argument about it. And there's always the risk that I'll say something offensive and come off as arrogant.

    You seem like a really smart girl, and I'm sure you could do a pretty good job of talking to people about your beliefs without being mean or stuck up about it. :)

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  5. I am particularly wonderful at making a fool of myself...consistently. I know just how you feel! You have put into words...very creatively, I might add.
    I am on fire for the Lord...there is no point or purpose in life without him, and I am all eager inside to share it. But I've got your problem.
    By the way...what was that book?
    Sounds interesting
    Jillian

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  6. Crazy Love by Francis Chan. It's definitely a great read. :o)

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  7. Yeah.
    *sigh*
    Yeah.
    I don't know what else to say.
    My Grandpa isn't a Christian. It hurts. I love him so, *so* much. The understanding that he rejects the Savior that I embrace hurts. The knowledge that he has no One to put his trust in hurts. The thought that he might not be in heaven with us hurts. It all hurts.
    What can you say? He's seen Christianity "work" for his family. He's been to church. He's heard the gospel message. What can you say to someone like that who still doesn't want to become a child of God?
    I love him so much. I want him to have the peace we have. I want him to have Someone to lean on. He tells me that "there are a lot of religions in this world; I'm not smart enough to know which one is right." So he rejects them all.
    I talked to him a few weeks ago. For the first time in my life, I went a little below the surface, sharing my beliefs. But still casually. I wasn't trying to turn him magically into a Christian, I was just saying things that would make my beliefs clear. Letting him know that I believe in Jesus Christ as my savior.
    He replied, and we were treading carefully on shaky ground. He lives at our house for a few months each summer. The LAST thing either of us wanted to do was damage our friendship.
    I felt so vulnerable as I listened to his replies, knowing he could butcher my pathetic arguments with a single word, only chose not to in favor of our relationship. I felt so helpless. It was not a fun feeling.
    What can I say to make him believe? He's heard it all. Not even the best argument in favor of Christianity could convince him without God's work in his heart. As for seeing my own Christian walk...I shudder to think that the chance of him coming to Jesus would rest upon that.
    I would love it if you would pray for him, if you think of it. He's a wonderful, wonderful man. A tender-hearted, hard-working, loving, faithful father, grandfather, and husband. He is so special to our family. I want him to come into God's family, too.

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  8. Julia.....I know. I know, sister. It hurts so bad.

    Sometimes you can't say anything. Sometimes there's just nothing you can do. Sometimes you've got to have a faith so big that you can let the people you love most rest in the hands of God...because there's just nothing, nothing in your power to do.

    You don't have to rest on your own strength to save your dear grandfather. Thank God that He is gracious enough not to require that of us!

    Your grandfather sounds complacent. Content in unbelief. Happy with the status quo. Pray. Pray specifically for doubt. It's a weird thing to pray for, but pray that he begins to doubt his bubble of unbelief, that things start happening that brings him to no other place but the feet of Christ. People can't see God as the answer until they ask the question.

    I will pray for you, Julia. Be blessed, friend. Our God is bigger than all the stubborn unbelief in the world.

    *hugs*

    Much love,
    Bailey

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  9. Oh, and in the words of Paul:

    Now to Him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, to Him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever, amen.

    Don't forget to believe that God can and will bring about salvation...that kind of faith will move mountains.

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  10. Thank you so much, Bailey.
    I am going to keep praying. Keep believing.
    Thanks for the encouragement. <3

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