Did you happen to see the post that Spirit 105.3 put up on their Personal Growth page entitled Stop Trying to Convert & Start Listening to Stories? I can’t tell you how happy I was to read that title. The author addressed a longtime pet-peeve of mine that’s been on my “To Blog About” list for years.
I have shared with you all that I grew up outside the church. There were lots of people along the way who tried to convert me. I would call them “well-meaning people” except I’m not sure that all of them were. Many of their actions and words did me more harm than good and actually kept me away from God longer than necessary. They acted superior and made me feel small and unimportant. I wanted nothing to do with their “religion”.
The vast majority of those who approached me seemed to be more interested in feeding their own egos than sharing the beautiful gift of the Lord with me.
I once had to spend hours at the airport and I prayed that God would send me someone to talk to (by that time I was a believer). Almost immediately a man approached me and began talking about his faith. He talked and talked and finally said, “Well, I hope someday you accept Jesus too.” I looked at him in shock and said, “Who said I haven’t?” His eyes widened and he walked awkwardly away. I hope he realized (as I did) that he hadn’t heard a word I said and was so busy with his own agenda that there was no room for my story. What was I to him? A notch on a belt? A way to feel superior? Where was the love?
Just a few months ago I was taking a walk around a lake when a man stopped on his bike to visit. He was cheerful and I could tell he belonged to the nearby church. I had just gone through a lengthy illness and I really needed someone to talk to for a minute or two. But, once this man found out that I was already a believer, I could literally see his eyes glaze over and he quickly rode away. If I couldn’t add a notch to his belt, if he couldn’t convert me, then I was worthless to him.
Sadly, I can’t even begin to count the times this has happened in my life. So many people feel “called to witness”. I think we forget what that means: “Wit-ness, a noun meaning a person who sees an event; an observer, a viewer.”
Are we listening to those we want to help? Are we truly hearing their voices, their stories? Or, are we too quick to climb up on a pedestal and shout out our little bit of knowledge to all those around us?
Let me leave you with a happy example:
I once had a Pastor who was a cheerful and welcoming presence in our church. One Sunday he came in with a subdued and very thoughtful countenance. He shared that he had been called to a dying man’s bedside. The elderly man’s family were gathered around him as he prepared to leave this world. I have never forgotten this young Pastor’s words. He said, “I learned so much by being with that family, I learned about faith and love and how to leave this world with grace.”
I have never admired him more. Instead of trying to impress them with his knowledge and schooling, he observed and listened and learned. Years later, I called him when my own parent passed away. I could think of no one better to be by my side.
God’s son is such a beautiful gift and gifts don’t need to be forced upon people. True gifts bring joy and make us feel loved. We don’t have the power to save but we do have the ability to listen BEFORE we begin to speak. And, perhaps that can be our gift to the world.