This summer, I learned a lot. A whole lot.
I have never had a busier summer than I did this year. It was amazing -I experienced so many things and met so many people who I call “friends” now. Gay and straight, black and white, rich and poor, both “lost” and “found”, those with able and disabled bodies/minds and the talented and the not-so-talented.
Of all the people I met and communities I was involved with, any “good Christian” would recognize that the situations I was in were ripe with opportunity to evangelize. As some might say, the “harvest was plenty” and, indeed, the workers were few. I was ready to work. I was ready to tell people about Jesus. Now, I don’t want to come across as seeming like the only reason I got involved in anything this summer was to evangelize – definitely not! I loved all the things I wanted to participate in. But as Christians, what tends to happen is that our “Christian duty” to evangelize and tell people about Jesus is supposed to be the top motivation in being around non-believers.
The closer I got to the people I was around and making friends with the more I felt a certain weight on my shoulders. I was so preoccupied with what I had to do as a Christian. It became burdensome. What happens if Jesus never comes up? Will I be punished for not using these opportunities? Will this whole summer be pointless? These are the kinds of questions I was constantly asking myself. I would pray, “God, just put one person in my path” and hope my eyes and ears were open for that person.
Then I realized what was going on: I didn’t have a weight on my shoulders at all – I had a monkey on my back.
As I started to feel more and more uncomfortable about this “weight” on my shoulders, I began praying honestly. I told God that I just wanted to have fun, enjoy my new friends and rack up tons of memories without the fear of “failing” (which breeds guilt, shame, and other negative emotions). I just wanted to fully engage my life. It seemed like such a selfish prayer but much to my surprise, God said “Ok, enjoy!”
Ok, enjoy?! But…I’m supposed to evangelize! I’m supposed to bring people to Jesus! Once I got over the initial shock of the answer to my prayer, that is when I decided what I was going to do: Say “no” to evangelism.
This summer, I decided to say…
No to being agenda driven in the way I interact with people…and Yes to genuinely listening to someone and what they have to say about…anything. I learned that evangelizing with an agenda is more about me than the other person. Also, it’s easily recognized and turns people away for good reason.
No to thinking I am always right…and Yes to letting others critique my opinions, thoughts and yes, even my own faith.
No to thinking I had failed if Jesus/God/Christianity never came up…and Yes to remembering that God is everywhere and in everything regardless of whether he is mentioned or not. The Divine is present in conversations, meals, apologies, laughing, singing, dancing, water skiing, tubing, fireworks and when pushing around a wheelchair.
No to seeing people as problems…and Yes to seeing people as, well… people. I learned that regardless of lifestyle or religion, all people deserve to be loved and listened to. I wrote a little about this in my last post.
No to having the “right” and most convincing words about God/Jesus…and Yes to manifesting Jesus through the way I loved.
By saying “no” to certain things and “yes” to others, I was able to live and love fully.
And when we are living and loving fully, often times we won’t need to tell people about Jesus…because he is already present and in our midst.
So, what are some things that you need to say (or have said) “no” to? What are some things you need to say (or already have said) “yes” to?