I started to write my experiences on the receiving end of evangelism on another blog, but it turned into such an enormous piece I am separating it out and writing it here. I offer this only as my own personal story, and not as a recommendation of what you should or should not do in your effort to make Christ known to someone.
I was baptized as an infant. It was arranged by a Catholic relative.
A family friend took my sister and I to a VBS-type outreach one summer when we were quite young. I don't remember it very well. I do remember thinking it was very unfair, because the other kids were able to figure out which cardboard character was Peter and things like that, which no one ever told me. Anything spiritual I missed out on.
In high school one year I sat with two Christians for lunch every day. Why? Because they were willing to sit with me and no one else would. We played cards. I don't remember their names. The guy--he was a senior, I a freshman or sophomore--invited me to church or something a couple times, and I said I couldn't go without finding out. At the end of the year it turned out he was giving a speech for graduation. I think he might have been some sort of class official. He asked about my views on life and I think I ended up talking about stuff like aliens and life on other planets. The other girl wasn't there that day, but was the next. The next day he asked if I wanted to say what I told him the day before again to her. I felt somehow like I shouldn't. He gave us his speech, which included how some people were looking for answers in things like life on other planets, but that the answer everyone needed was Jesus. Something like that.
It made no impact on me. Not sure I really understood it. Later I remember my mom telling me that this family friend's husband had lost her job, but she believed it was for a reason, because they believed everything happened for a reason. I remember thinking (and likely saying) that it was stupid to think bad things happened for a reason.
I also was mentored by a teacher that same year I think, who in retrospect I think was a Christian, because at one point she took me out of class to explain that many people found it offensive when someone took God's name in vain. I do not think there was a spiritual aspect to the mentoring.
I think at some point--maybe in this year as well--I tried praying. I didn't get it.
I moved. I decided to make up my own religion. I figured something made up 2000 years ago wasn't really better than something made up today.
I had always been free to learn more about God or church or religion if I wanted, but I never wanted. My parents would say they are agnostic. I don't know if that period illustrates more how hard God was working to reach me, or how much my own spiritual blindness and deafness, or Satan, or all of the above, worked to keep the message of God and His Love obscured to me.
Through all of my early life I felt I was missing something. I thought it was friends, which I rarely had in abundance if at all. I was always the kid everyone else made fun of. I say this not to complain or elicit sympathy, (in retrospect there are aspects of this for which I am grateful) but simply to show the picture of who I am.
I told some classmates later that I had made up my own religion, and some of the things I believed. They told me not to tell one girl in particular--maybe because she was a Christian? I didn't. Judging by what happened to a meat pizza on a Friday night, all but one of these were Catholics. The other was a Mennonite, I learned at some point.
I went to a third high school. It was a specialized school for students interested in math and science. Really I'm more interested in English, but I am good at math and science. So I applied and was accepted. While I was there I learned that I wasn't the smartest person there was. There were many other people as smart or smarter than me. Perhaps to most people this wouldn't have been shocking, but for me I think it was a surprise. At the same time I found a community of people like me--not everyone in the school, but a small group who liked to congregate around chess boards at lunch time and talk about obscure topics. You might call them/us geeks or nerds. Belonging was an entirely new feeling for me. I think I may, at some point, have in some way worshiped the spirit of my school and of what I called my people.
And there was a guy. He was definitely a geek, though perhaps not the geekiest of them. I think I first met him during orientation, though he didn't make much of an impression on me then. Later, we were vying for the bottom spot on the chess ladder as we lost to everyone else. So it was decided I had to play him. At first I refused. I thought it was more fun to keep going without ever playing each other. But someone insisted, so we played, and he smashed my face in. In a purely metaphorical sense, of course. And we played many games of chess, with me winning once in a while. And we spent time together, though I was also spending time with lots of other friends. It is worth noting that the school was in the area of 75% male, and that only two of my friends were female. This rarely occurred to me.
At some point I started emailing my guy friend every morning. Why just him, I do not know. I think I would have fallen for any of my guy friends. But he ended up being the one. And we ended up going to the prom together (his senior, my junior--combined at our very small school (~70 or 80 juniors and seniors). And someone asked if we were a couple, and he thought they just meant tonight, and said yes.
We spent more and more time together. At some point I learned he was a Christian. At some point he told me that God would always come first in his life (meaning I could never be more than second). Anyone who wasn't a Christian and had a normal level of self-esteem might have moved on then. But I said "Okay."
What was he doing dating me? I think he just kind of fell into it as we spent more time together. It was a first relationship for both of us. I certainly don't think he set out to date a non-Christian.
I pressured him for sex. He said not yet. I said when. He said when we got married.
He compromised. We did things we shouldn't have--things we didn't know we shouldn't have, like making out, and things he knew very well we shouldn't have as well (not sex), all initiated by me.
(And anyone reading this who thinks that their daughters need to be protected from non-Christians and not their sons, I hope this scares you.)
At some point in high school, he took me to a youth event. There was skating, bowling, a hockey game (we rooted for the referees), and some sort of evangelistic outreachy thing. One of the chaperones asked if I wanted to go down during the altar call. But he got my name wrong, so I said no. Not sure how much I understood then either.
He went to the college that shared a campus with our high school--seniors took college courses there. I followed, mostly because of him. His having a dorm room meant I could do more. He held firm enough not to have sex with me, which I am sure was very difficult. The next year he commuted from home, but I had a dorm room. And at some point, probably counseled by Godly mentors for his own good, he said that he couldn't keep seeing me because I was not a Christian. Of course I was emotionally invested. In that moment I realized I was willing to live a lie for him. And so I said "Tell me more about what you believe."
I started going to his church.
And something miraculous happened--at some point, I started believing what I was hearing. It had nothing to do with a childhood VBS week, or two friends who spent a long year ministering to a girl who felt completely alone, or a teacher who tried to make an impression even though regulations constrained her from sharing spiritual truths. And it certainly was not a direct result of missionary dating.
It didn't have anything to do with a rally and a youth leader who forgot my name--though it might have had something to do with a curious thing I felt in my heart every time I heard that man pray.
I cannot and do not discount the possibility that my baptism as an infant conferred some small measure of grace--especially since nothing similar has happened to my sister, who was not baptized.
It may have had something to do with a night spent with three other lonely, searching people as we stayed in one of their parent's houses while out of town for a larp (live-action role-playing game), crying with each other and feeling alone though we were all very good friends, and my private realization that I was in sin--that God had given me a good man and I had done nothing but try and corrupt him.
It may have had something to do with being willing to live as a Christian and hear the word of God, that perhaps my heart was that much softer, or as I sat in church and heard the words more they started to make sense.
I am left simply to conclude that God used every available means to get at my heart, even the sinfulness of the teenager I would one day marry. And that in the end, it was only through the work of the Holy Spirit in my heart that I was saved, after every human effort to show me love and make me understand had failed. There is not now any doubt in my mind that I am saved, forgiven, and set free from my past and my sin.
Labels: christianity, evangelism