My roommate was watching television, and I sat down to watch it with her. It was some kind of PBS show, and we both sometimes tend to get a little too excited about PBS shows. Do you think it's because we're awesome? I think it's because we're awesome. Anyway, this commercial came on for some sort of adventure show. And the tagline was something like, "Adventure--with a purpose!"
I squinted at the television, as I tend to squint at most things that confuse me, and I said, "Isn't the purpose of adventure simply to have an adventure?"
My roommate didn't make eye-contact with me. She wanted to avoid having a conversation with me about Narnia (apparently, she knows me well enough to know that my mind immediately went there). When I kept looking at her, she admitted, "I saw the third Narnia movie. I didn't like all the CGI." And I could tell from her tone that she really didn't want to discuss anything else about it, because I tend to get a little crazy when I talk about Narnia. But by that time, the fascinating PBS show about whales came back on, and she was saved.
Saved by the whale. Couldn't resist that pun.
But I've been thinking about purpose. Ever since college, I've been hearing the phrase, "Be intentional." I've never liked that phrase. It's not that I don't agree with it, in theory, but I don't really see that being my personal style. The "be intentional" phrase, at least in Southern Baptist circles (and even if I'm a member of a Southern Baptist church, I don't consider myself a Southern Baptist--but that's another story), is almost always used when talking about evangelism--leading people to Christ. Some people seem to have some sort of second nature that allows them to always know what to say and when and how to say it. They are able to take any conversation and naturally guide it into a conversation about Spirituality and God. These are true evangelists.
I'm not one of them.
That doesn't let me off the hook about telling people what I believe and why I believe it, all the while wanting them to believe in Jesus, too. It's just that I am not a natural evangelist. I am not a natural people-person at all. I get in moods where I need to be alone. And for a long time, I thought there was something wrong with that, because honestly, that's what society (even Southern Baptist and Christian society) tells you. But over the years I'd start to wonder if I was doing something wrong by not being intentional. Except, I've learned that when I do try to be intentional, when I try to be anything instead of just being, then I'm going to fall on my face and NOT give glory to God. That's just how it is.
I'm not talking about making an excuse for a lack of preparation. We should be prepared. Scripture is clear on that. But if I go out and try to talk to just some random person about Christ, it's not going to be natural for me. It's going to be wrong. Why? Because in my heart I know that I'm not trying to get to know that person; I'm just trying to evangelize them--get them to Jesus so I can move on. And that's not right.
There are Christians who are able to meet people where they are and almost effortlessly lead them to Christ--and they do this through love, not through some Spiritual exercise where they feel they have to get another notch in their evangelism belt. I'm sometimes tempted to be envious of them, except for these people are so genuine in their faith and love for everyone that I can't feel something as hateful as envy towards them. It would be nice to be more like them, but then I'm reminded that God doesn't make cookie-cutter people. God made one me. I'm the way I am for a reason.
I'm more of an encourager than an evangelist. I like relationships that are built on more than just getting someone to Christ--although, I do know that's the most important thing. But I'm not the sort of person who can just meet someone and say, "HEY, LET ME TELL YOU ABOUT JESUS!" I have done that before, and it did go well, but it was a special circumstance (I've been reading the Uglies series--can you tell?). I was on a mission trip to Thailand, talking to Buddhist monks, and I actually experienced that awesomeness that comes when the Holy Spirit comes upon you, and I was His witness in the uttermost parts of the earth. But that's the exception for me, not the norm. The Holy Spirit works different ways in different people, and I'm just not typically that person who gets to strike up a conversation with a complete stranger about anything--especially not something personal.
What I have learned recently is that the Lord is using me in small ways in the lives of some of my non-Christian friends. And I've found that it's a natural thing for me--not something that seems wrong at all. Why? Because I love these friends. When difficult circumstances arise in their lives, it gives me an opportunity to naturally tell them about Jesus. It allows me to tell them that I am praying for them, and to encourage them Scripturally--to reinforce that I have hope in my struggles because of Christ. It's not about evangelism at that point--it's about love.
It's not that I'm against having a purpose or that I'm against being intentional. I'm just not that person. There are amazing godly people who are those people. I'm more of the sort of person who sees the importance of the journey. Friendships are important whether they're with Christians or nonChristians, and I don't think the main point of those friendships should be just to get them to Christ as soon as possible. It's not always a copout to say that actions speak louder than words. Sometimes I'm going to be much more of an effective evangelist by quietly showing who Christ is and who I am in Him, only speaking when it's natural to do so.
At the same time, I am not comfortable being too comfortable. So I'm doing a few purposeful things that kind of scare me a little bit. I've joined a running group with my church--well, it's actually a multi-sport group, but running is one of the main components. The goal of the group is to encourage one another while also trying to build relationships with other runners, in the hopes of sharing Christ. And even though I'm not a group sort of person or an intentional sort of person, I really just can't ignore the fact that I've just started running fairly recently, right as this group is starting out (Let me pause right here and laugh hysterically at the thought that I, Ruth Campbell, am in a SPORTS MINISTRY. That's hilarious. It really is. God has a great sense of humor). And last night I went and ran with them. A lot of it was just me running by myself (which is how I prefer it, and I liked the fact that they let me do that), but I was still part of a group--a group with a purpose in mind.
So we'll see how things continue to go. I think I'm ready for some adventure.