It's been new terrain. There hasn't been much time to reflect over what's been happening as life careens past before I can even look up from the busyness, but there is one thing that I cannot get off my mind: God answers prayer, so think twice before praying.
A year ago, I had no idea how twelve months would transform my life, but I did have a prayer. I prayed earnestly that God would give me an opportunity to share Jesus. I prayed because I had anxiety over the idea of going through twelve years of high school without ever obeying the Great Commission. I was so scared that I would live eighteen years of life without ever being the missionary that I knew I was supposed to be. So I prayed, day after day, that God would give me somebody that I could witness to. I wanted to be active in the furthering of the Kingdom, and I didn't want to wait til after graduation.
Again, I tell you. Think twice before praying. I've had more people sit me down and tell me their life stories in this past year than in all the rest of my life. Some of them I had known for a time, and others were new friends, or strangers. Some were peers, some were adults. And they were all a majorly terrifying answer to prayer.
By about the twelfth person, I was brought to my knees out of stress, and had to pray, "Hey, what's up?! I'm just trying to graduate. I'm just trying to do my best at my jobs and in school and still build my relationships with my friends- why are you giving me all the weight of all these extra burdens?" When they needed something, I didn't know how to help. When they needed advice, I didn't know what to say.
And it took me a while to get it right, I'll be honest. At first, I played the neutral listener. I never gave my opinion unless it matched theirs. I tried to be as tolerant and as nonchalant as possible. I never advised any course of action; I condoned the present lifestyle, however unhealthy it was. I was so scared of losing their trust or coming across as standoffish, that I gave up on God's call. Rather than presenting Jesus as an option, I affirmed that what they were doing was fine, acceptable, and completely their business.
And their situations got worse. It was scary to hear about the deteriorating circumstances in the lives of people around me. And that's when it hit me. These people were sick. They were in need of help, and they were calling out for help. But instead of being the doctor, I was the receptionist that listened to their issue, told them to come back in a week for another chat, and then sent them home. And yet, I was surprised when they came back sinking deeper and deeper in trouble.
It finally hit me. I asked God to make me a witness for Him, and He gave me a long list of opportunities. I didn't recognize them at first. I played the pacifist. I didn't want to offend, I didn't want to intimidate. And as I tried to be as pleasant and easygoing as I could, these new friends got no better. God had positioned me to be the light in their life, and I unplugged myself. He wanted to use me to be the light that pointed them to Jesus, but I gave them sunglasses.
The first time that I stepped out just a little bit and gave them a real tidbit of advice, I braced myself. I was expecting a shutdown. I was expecting the barriers to go up, and the relationship to be put into deadlock. But all that followed was curiosity, interest, and hope. Hope. I had been encouraging sin. I had been affirming a life lived apart from Christ. So when they continued in the way that I had been supporting, things grew hopeless when my suggestions didn't work. But the moment I brought out the real medicine, scared as I was, there was a glimmer of real hope. A chance of recovery. A possibility of renewal. Every time I passed up the opportunity to speak life, I was missing what it really means to be a missionary.
I found that even when I was open with my faith, people didn't shy away like I expected. Even those who expressed a distrust for religion seemed to be interested in my worldview. They wanted answers, and their desperation caused them to look just about anywhere.
It became apparent that while they while they thought they wanted the chocolate, what they needed was Buckley's. "It tastes awful. And it works." Is there any simpler way to describe the way the Gospel reaches us as sinners by nature?
It scared me, listening to the stories of struggle and pain, and hearing the band-aids that these people were putting over their bullet holes. It scared me, and I wondered if I was letting down my guard too much. I didn't know if I was strong enough to be their support. I didn't know if I was strong enough to be there for all of them. I didn't know if I was strong enough to hold my ground. God had given me a love for them, but I didn't want to lose myself. If you're standing on a chair, it's easy for somebody to come up, grab your arm, and pull you down to ground level. It's much harder for you to grab their arm and lift them onto the chair with you. But that's exactly what The Great Commission is. I do not believe that it is the purpose of a Christian to push the lost out of their lives. There is definitely merit to the statement, "You are who you hang out with," but I do not believe that it is our job to stay away from the sick and confused.
Later, Levi invited Jesus and his disciples to his home as dinner guests, along with many tax collectors and other disreputable sinners. (There were many people of this kind among Jesus’ followers.) But when the teachers of religious law who were Pharisees saw him eating with tax collectors and other sinners, they asked his disciples, “Why does he eat with such scum?” When Jesus heard this, he told them, “Healthy people don’t need a doctor—sick people do. I have come to call not those who think they are righteous, but those who know they are sinners.”
There's a need for balance in all of our lives. Church, personal devotions, and solid friends of faith are key in building us up, and holding us accountable. On the other hand, we have all eternity to spend with God and the Godly. We only have a limited amount of years to reach the unsaved. To be afraid is to give up on the greatest assignment ever given to mankind. Jesus never asked His followers to go and disciple the nations. He told His faithful friends the expectation, and it remains the mission to this very day.
Being a witness doesn't require street evangelism, or handing out Gospel tracts. We can fulfill this daily mission by simply living humbly, and Christlike. We should be living in a way that attracts people, intrigues people, but leaves them nothing to criticize. We should be living in a way that labels us as followers of Jesus, but leaves nothing worth condemning. We should be living in such a way that those who blame us and persecute us are at a loss for words. Nobody says it better than Peter:
1 Peter 3:13-17~
Now, who will want to harm you if you are eager to do good? But even if you suffer for doing what is right, God will reward you for it. So don’t worry or be afraid of their threats. Instead, you must worship Christ as Lord of your life. And if someone asks about your Christian hope, always be ready to explain it. But do this in a gentle and respectful way. Keep your conscience clear. Then if people speak against you, they will be ashamed when they see what a good life you live because you belong to Christ. Remember, it is better to suffer for doing good, if that is what God wants, than to suffer for doing wrong!
I prayed. God answered. I botched it, He fixed it. Just another year in the life of yours truly.