First Things First

On a busy street corner in New Orleans.

Driving down the highway in Noblesville.

Over steaming cups of coffee.

At lunch with my colleagues.

Tucking little ones into bed.

In a bare, concrete room in Africa.

Making dinner for a neighbor.

Listening to hard stories.

A study with friends.

Sitting on colorful grass mats in Thailand.

Up late into the night. Waiting. Praying.

The sharing of my faith. Places, people, moments. It all makes up a life. In this case, mine.

And I’m thinking about the sharing. Recently, I was asked to write the three minute version of my testimony just in case I was asked to share how God had changed me. I’ve done this long ago, but it seemed so scripted, so, “Here’s the short version so I can get it over with and we can move on to other topics of conversation.” I put it off for quite a while, thinking, I probably won’t use this – that’s just not my style.

Actually, it’s more than not my style. It makes me downright uncomfortable, mouth feels like cotton, hands start sweating, heart starts racing.

And I’ve been wondering why – why does my body have these physical reactions, why does my mouth usually blurt out something that sounds like a prerecorded message from my 3rd grade Sunday school teacher? It all feels real, authentic, personal –  my faith. So why is this so hard?

So, I began writing down stories, the tangible proof of what God has done in and through me. How he’s rescued me, all the many times he’s rescued me through his word, his Spirit, his people. And suddenly this mind of mine is flooded with real and raw truth, with the tangible proof other people connect to, want to hear, need to hear. Suddenly, the words poured out and it sounded much different than my 3rd grade Sunday school teacher version because it was mine.

Which brings me back to my list at the beginning. This is what sharing my faith has looked like for me over the years. There, in all the places God takes me, he uses this quiet unassuming spirit, to listen to people, look for people that God loves, those who need to know him intimately – need to know about how he restores and heals and protects.   And when I think about this short list, I’m reminded it’s how God uses me to share my faith, not overtly, not even with words sometimes. In fact, usually, it’s just being there, being available, seeing the person right in front of me and loving with my time and maybe a story if they ask.

It’s after the time, the moments, the occasional check in or coffee shared  that these conversations bloom into something natural and fluid. I imagine it’s something like Jesus moving through a town, looking into the eyes of a desperate father, stopping to ask who touched him and listening to stories, stretched out on the stone wall of a well, listening, talking, moving through the lives of others.

You might say, “Well, that was Jesus’ mission. He was supposed to do that. It was why he came to the earth – to save us.” And I’d agree with you.

Except he did it out of love, not law.

Love, not ritual.

Love, not monotony.

Love, not duty.

Jesus was obedient to the Father in all things and set the example for us to follow: the investment in the lives of his creation.

So to put God first by sharing my faith, I must first love, because Jesus first loved me. If I can’t look on others with compassion, can’t give them my time, can’t stop and notice and see them, I have no right to share my faith. Scriptures say how will they know if no one tells about the love story of Jesus. I wonder who will listen if they’ve not first been heard themselves?

There is a time for my story to be heard, to be told, but I will have to do the slow, patient work of listening, paying attention, being a friend. I will need to love them, look at them as more than just someone who needs the security of heaven, hear their stories of loss and success and let them do the asking and pray for a bold spirit when God wants me to do the asking instead.

Because sharing my faith isn’t about insurance, it’s about assurance.

In the one who told me He is the way, the truth and the life.

In the one who continually teaches me how to love people like he does.

In the one who sends me out of my bedroom to a family, out of my home to a neighborhood, to a job, out of my comfortable world of freedom and justice and security in my own salvation and into the uncertain places outside my front door, in dirt floor living rooms and crowded streets filled with people who don’t yet know, who haven’t yet heard of the love and sacrifice – and the love.

I put God first by sharing my faith by sharing my life. No boxes to check, no numbers to attain. Just a pure heart that wants contagious relationships and the honor of telling what He has done for me.

One comment

  1. Fantastic Janna! “I wonder who will listen if they’ve not been heard themselves.” This is so simple but so powerful!

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