7/7/13 Alex 26
Alex, 26, needed to kill some time while his car was being worked on at a mechanic’s shop, so he walked over to a nearby park to sit and wait, which is where I found him while out looking to initiate a witnessing conversation. I walked over to where he was sitting on a bench and asked if he would be willing to give his opinion on a crazy question – “What do you think happens after this life?” This opened up an hour-long conversation, and I found out Alex is newly married, afraid of the responsibility of having kids, wondering about his purpose in life, and full of questions, confused by the mixture of his Catholic upbringing and recent dabbling with various belief systems and theories on the internet. I was able to answer his questions with the authority of the Bible and the law and grace of the Gospel, which worked to cut through his fog of confusion. Was this a “divine encounter”, orchestrated by the supernatural work of the Holy Spirit? Many Christians, wanting to share our faith out of obedience to Jesus and love for the lost, pray for conversations just like this. However, like the man caught in rising floodwaters who prayed for a miraculous rescue only to turn away such worldly and “unmiraculous” answers to his prayer such as a lifeboat or a helicopter, we often pass by likewise “unmiraculous” divine encounters. Why? Because when we envision a chance to share our faith we often envision someone coming up to us and initiating the conversation, like the man who ran up and fell on his knees before Jesus and asked “Good teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” We hope, often through simply being “nice” (non-confrontational), that people will want to know why we are so different. But the truth is, there are a lot of nice people in the world, and we really aren’t that different. We will have to wait a long time for others to initiate such conversations. Pastors often don’t recognize this because it happens all the time after their sermons and as a result of their professions, but the rest of us need to be much more proactive. What would really make us different than worldly “niceness” is if, rather than expecting others to initiate the conversation with us, we go and reach out to them instead. Are we confident enough in our relationship with Jesus to take the risk of rejection? When we pray for divine encounters do we expect that we will be the ones to initiate them? Do we see that wherever there are people who have a little time to talk there are opportunities for Spirit-led conversations? Do we recognize the work of the Holy Spirit in our hearts who gives us the desire to reach out to others in the first place? To Alex, our conversation there in the park was no accident, no mere coincidence. He left to go pick up his car fully convinced, as I am, that God had arranged the whole thing.