March 15th, 2021 by Sara Buffington
Let me tell you a story I am embarrassed to admit.
When I first moved to Central Florida, I was amazed by all the radio stations. Coming from rural Virginia where there were literally two stations (and even they went in and out), I was delighted to find so many options, including a Christian radio station.
One day soon after I moved here I was in line for the drive-up teller at the bank. I was blaring some Christian music. As I approached the teller, I turned the radio down. Way down.
I can sit here and tell you it was because I anticipated needing to hear the teller clearly.
But that wasn’t it.
After I went through the bank, I sat in my car and thought about what I had just done.
I knew the reason I had turned off my Christian music was that I didn’t want the bank teller—the perfect stranger—to think I was some kind of Jesus freak.
I tell you this because it is one of many examples of me choosing to stay behind my walls. Incognito. Not sticking out. “Normal.”
I read in the Bible about how God’s people are supposed to be the “light of the world.” Listen to this verse:
I am pretty sure I put my lamp under a bowl a lot. And I know enough about chemistry to know that when you do that, the flame goes out from lack of oxygen.
My in-laws had a friend who road the train back and forth to the city for work. Everyday on that train commute he would look for people to help, to counsel, and, yes, to tell about Jesus.
He did this for years, and many people on that train found hope, help, and faith because of him.
One day the newspaper wrote an article about him. They labeled him the “Railway Evangelist.” He was upset! Now he was unmasked, and he felt that people would be less likely to talk to him.
He wanted to be incognito for a completely different reason than I did.
I want to be bold. Who doesn’t want that? There are wonderful verses in the Bible about being bold. Here’s one:
But I break out into a cold sweat when I think of talking to strangers about Jesus.
So I have found another way of being bold: vulnerability.
I decided a decade ago that I was going to stop pretending that I had it all together. Because as much as I would like that to be the truth, it’s just not.
I can take cute pics of my kids and post them on Instagram, I can smile and say that “Everything is just amazing, thank you!”, and I can keep everything hidden under a glossy smile.
But that is all a facade because no one has it all together, no matter what they say or how they present themselves.
I think the modern American church is struggling in part because Christians feel we have to “sell” people on Christianity by making our lives look a certain way. We have to be happy all the time—we’re Christians! The penny always has to land heads up for us, right?
When we pretend that everything is fine all the time—and that by extension we have it all together—we ask to be labeled hypocrites or “out of touch.”
Soon after I moved here I was invited to a young mom’s Bible study. I was surprised to enter a room full of manicured fingers and not a hair out of place. I wasn’t in the country anymore.
We talked around topics for weeks (everything but nothing), and then one day a mom in the group started crying. She shared about how she had lost their whole identity in motherhood and was struggling, really struggling, with sadness and shame.
Things broke open for the entire group after that. Everyone shared honestly. And that is when real help—and real hope—entered.
So my way of sharing about Jesus with others is by being honest and vulnerable about where I am and where I have been.
And this is why. Have you ever heard this story?
A man falls in a pit. He yells for help. A doctor walks by and writes a prescription on a slip of paper and throws it in the pit.
Then a priest walks by (yes, I am sorry to say this is how the story goes) and writes a Bible verse on a slip of paper and throws it in the pit.
But then a friend walks by and, seeing his friend, jumps in the pit with him.
“What are you doing?” says the first man. “Now we are both stuck down here!”
“Ah, but I’ve been down here before,” answers the friend, “and I know the way out.”
I am not saying that I walk up down the aisles at Publix and talk about all my life’s struggles.
“I struggle with anxiety.”
“I can be manipulative.”
“I went through infertility for years!”
“Those precious kids? Yeah, I just yelled at them. Everyone cried today.”
But I do make an effort to listen to others when I talk to them, and ask myself, “Can I show them they are not alone?”
If someone tells you that everything is amazing when you become a Christian, don’t believe them.
One of our old friends, Greg, became a Christian as an adult. And as he put it, “Then my life fell apart.” It caused a huge family rift, and unrelatedly he lost his job and had to move. His first year as a Christian was the hardest of his life.
Some give up even more when they follow Jesus—ask Sheryl for stories of people from other cultures who are shunned, persecuted, or worse, all because they chose to follow Jesus.
Following Jesus is hard, but it is also good because a) God is with you even in the worst of times--you're family b) he is the Redeemer (which means he can make good out of bad) and c) we have a home with him after this earth where there is no more sorrow or pain.
So even though I continue to struggle myself, I have hope and joy because of Jesus. And that makes all the difference. That is something I can share.
I may never talk about Jesus with a stranger on a train or a plane or at a gas station.
But then again I might.
I have decided to be boldly vulnerable in my relationships, and wait for those opportunities to find common ground with others, jump in the pit beside them, and maybe help point the way out.
Have you ever been boldly vulnerable? What was the result? Let me know in the comments below.
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