I’m 37 years old, and within the past year, three of my closet high school friends have suddenly passed away. Most people would be riddled with the why’s and how’s associated with so many unexplained, early deaths. But the only question I’m burdened with after every subsequent loss is this: why haven’t I shared my faith with the people who knew me best, before I knew the Lord?
Especially because I’m undeniable proof God’s transformative love. Anyone who knew me at 18 would never believe my current idea of fun now is going to Friday night worship jams or scoring that extra Bible time during the kids’ Saturday morning toons. I was an angsty, Alanis Morissette- loving ball selfishness that woulda rather rolled in glass shards than go to church. Picture a vodka-infused version of mean girls. Ah, Alanis, isn’t it ironic.
It took me hitting rock bottom getting pregnant in college and army-crawling my way back to my mother’s house like a post-acid tripping Prodigal Son for God to get a grip of my heart and find truth. That God is not an accusing spirit, an ambivalent being or the killer of fun. He’s the only way to real peace and joy that’s not hinged upon circumstances, or people. I gave my life to him at 23, and never looked back. That doesn’t mean I haven’t screwed up, fallen flat on my face and made full use of God’s grace, but man, has he changed me.
At first I couldn’t wait to tell people about what had happened to me. Co-workers, new and old friends-everyone was getting this valley girl’s take on Jesus whether they liked it or not. I used to strategize and devise ways to work God into any conversation, evangelizing with the boldness of the naked cowboy in Times Square. At the height of my fervor, I unknowingly committed a federal offense (who knew?!) by shoving letters about how I got saved into neighbors’ mailboxes at 1 a.m. because I couldn’t afford 200 stamps. I just had to tell people how I had it all wrong about God. How religion has poisoned our minds against the truth of his mercy and goodness, and how God loved and transmuted my cold, nasty heart into a peaceful, and dare I say, even people-loving one.
I had such a burden for people living without God, I felt selfish not talking about Him. Like I discovered the cure to a universal disease no one knew they had. I felt I was living that Amazing Grace verse, “I once was lost, but now I see,” because I was literally raised in the church, yet totally blind and ignorant to whom God really was. My father was a full-time pastor, so not only was I raised in a Godly, loving household, I saw tangible proof of his existence all the time, like physical miracles including a leg straightening before my eyes. But it never touched my heart and it was never real to me. I was naturally rebellious and more self-absorbed than all of Kardashia combined, and saw God as something standing between me and all the rules I wanted to break. I don’t care what Testament you’re touting, nothing’s going to stand before this girl and her pot.
So when I finally “got it”-the unbelievable goodness of God-and tasted His freedom, people heard about it, including the entire newsroom I worked at in “03, sharing my salvation story with all who would listen, or at least be slow to hang up. “Thanks for the quote, Commissioner….now have you heard about my friend Jesus.” Not quite, but close.
But then life takes over. Higher level jobs consume our time. Marriage and kids demand our attention. And we rest upon the popularly-held belief that if we live a moral life, and say ‘God bless’ to those we pass in our hurried wake, we’ll lead people to Christ. It’s a more convenience and less convicting stance for sure, but I’m not sure if it’s one I can perpetuate after yet another funeral of someone who knew me before the lord, and not since.
What’s especially painful in this reality, is last year God put it on my heart to get together with the most recent friend who passed away, to hang out and possibly share my faith. But after trading Facebook messages about when and where we’d meet, I was too “busy” and full of excuses to follow through. And now I never will. Friends have assured me not to feel guilty, or think too much about it-after all we’re not solely responsible for the salvation of another person, right? Maybe. But could I have possibly made an eternal difference in a friend’s life if I had put God’s voice before my own? I’d love for the answer to be different, but it has to be yes.
So I’m left wondering-if God has really saved me from slavery to sin, and myself, and given me eternal life-how could there still be friends I haven’t shared my faith with? If I really believe the only way to heaven is through Christ, shouldn’t there at least be a burden to help others see the truth I denied for so long? The easy excuse would be that spirituality is simply a “personal thing,” and it’s not our job to save souls, it’s God’s.I wonder if we’d feel the same if it were our own children, or family members living on the Earth without the knowledge of Christ? It’s easy to assume a church on every corner guarantees everyone access to the Gospel, but that sure wasn’t enough for me. It took people really investing in me, inviting me to a home Bible study and spending time with me, to finally soften my heart towards God.
I don’t pretend to know anyone’s eternal fate, or what happens between a person and God in those final moments. But one of my greatest wishes, from here on out, would be to make sure those who know me now-co-workers, friends, neighbors-know how much God has done for me.
I’m not advocating we hold an alter call with every visit to the drive through, or pack a tree-load of salvation tracks with every outing , but if God puts someone on your heart, even if it’s just for prayer, listen and let him give you the strength and desire to follow through. None of us are guaranteed a tomorrow. Today, is the day to share our faith.