Monday, August 10, 2009

Never Assume...

I wonder how many assumptions we make about people on any given day. Having a rather, uh, creative and over-active imagination sometimes, I like to make up stories in my mind about people I see at the store, houses for sale in my neighborhood, the mailman, etc. People and places I see, but know absolutely nothing about. Perhaps I got a taste of my own medicine on Saturday.

Frank was away most of the day doing some repairs on our house we rent out in Terre Haute. The afternoon was getting long and the kids and I needed to get out of the house for awhile. It was pretty warm, but we decided to take a walk to the park anyway. It's only a few blocks away, but the herding skills necessary to get the kids to cross the street at the same time, manuver the stroller, and keep them from examining every rock and leaf along the way make the trip a little more epic than a simple stroll to the park. So I'm sure I looked more than a little hot and worn out as we approached a man mowing his yard. He kindly shut down the mower when he saw us so we could traverse his sidewalk without the trepidation of grass cuttings flying at our ankles. I said a friendly hello and encouraged the kids to keep walking (and that the mower monster wouldn't harm them...they hate lawn mowers.).

The man looked up and said, "Do you go to church anywhere?" I didn't expect that question. I'm sure my first look was a bit deer-in-headlights, but I quickly recovered and said that I did. We struck up a short conversation about my church, HealingPointe, his church here in Sullivan and our shared faith. I left a little encouraged that I had a neighbor who cared enough about a stranger to inquire about their spiritual well-being. But also a little curious as to why he asked me the question in the first place. Does he ask everyone this question? If so, I admire that. Or did I just look a little extra in need of Jesus? Not sure how I feel about that one! He could very easily have assumed, "Now here's a struggling single mom with three little kids...maybe she's at the end of her rope and she's open to the gospel! Woman down! Attack for Jesus!" I have no idea. He probably did it out of love and wanting to help someone and I'm overworking my imagination again.

But would I have asked him the same question? Probably not. Why IS that? I want to be bold in sharing my faith. I want to be ready at a moment's notice to help a stranger or have an answer to a spiritual question. I want people to know that having a relationship with God is something they need to think about. But I don't want to be jerk and assume things...which I probably do too often. I judge that this person SEEMS to be in need of Jesus more than this person...based on appearance alone! I don't want to put someone off if I come at them with any trace of judgement or insincerity. I struggle with this, especially as we plan how to invite the neighborhood around our newly acquired church building to our church. How can we be loving, sincere, bold, and prepared to share the thing most important to us? And why is rejection so incredibly scary? And shouldn't I be better at this by now?

But truthfully, at that moment, asking my lawn mowing neighbor if he went to church was about the last thing on my mind! I was ready to say my polite hello and move on without a further thought about him. Oops. It was a good reminder that my mind and heart need to be so saturated with God and his Spirit that I am continually sensitive to what God wants me to do or say to anyone who crosses my path...whether a stranger (who "looks" in need or not!), an aquaintence, a good friend or even my own kids. Sharing my faith can't be just a thing I do when I plan it or when it's convenient.

(I Peter 3:13-16 NIV)
Who is going to harm you if you are eager to do good? But even if you should suffer for what is right, you are blessed. "Do not fear what they fear; do not be frightened." But in your hearts set apart Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect, keeping a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against your good behavior in Christ may be ashamed of their slander.

So thank you, my lawn mowing neighbor! Your one little question encouraged me to put away my assumptions and ask God for help to keep Him on the front burners of my mind and heart.


Billy Coffey said...

I really do admire people who can be like that man. Me, I'd be stuttering and stammering so much that whomever I was trying to talk to wouldn't understand a word. And you know what? That just stinks.

But I'm like you. I'd be wondering the whole time if I somehow didn't look Jesus-y enough.

Shark Bait said...

Good question.

On the other hand, I always try to follow the old "Talk to Jesus about your neighbours before you talk to your neighbours about Jesus" advice.

Good excuse to be a coward no doubt, but still good advice. (Provided we remember to do both.)

Annie K said...

Great post Beth, and something to chew on for the rest of the evening...

katdish said...

Not only did he get you thinking about your witness, he got a blog post out of you. Win-win.

Ryan said...

that's a pretty humbling many opportunities do I miss each day?