Wednesday, June 20, 2012
One morning last summer, Allen and I discussed the various errands to be done and whether I should attempt any of them. My stamina was even more limited then than it is now, but his job required a great many hours of overtime just then, and he was weary and grim. Still, he said he'd take care of them all over the weekend.
There was, however, one errand I had omitted from the list. I wanted cupcakes to photograph for the blog's first birthday, and I wanted to choose them myself.
When he left for work, I looked at a new local bakery's Web site to see their hours, knowing that with temperatures starting the day near 90F, I needed to get out and back in a hurry. To my relief, they opened at eight.
I dressed and headed that way. As I drove, I pondered Ann Voskamp's invitation to write about forgiveness for the Walk with Him Wednesday community that week. Was that the answer to my prayers of late for an open door to witness to someone of Christ? Should I write about God's forgiveness? In the background, Alistair Begg preached about the foolishness of the gospel, apparently on a text from 1 Corinthians. Yes, that was how I should approach Wednesday's post. God's forgiveness through the cross of Christ.
That settled, I parked the car and entered the bakery. The manager was coaching a young Asian woman, apparently a new hire. They both looked up, and she greeted me enthusiastically. He boxed up the cupcakes I selected and answered my inquiry about a yummy-looking bar cookie (of which the girl eagerly offered a sample).
She then asked if I was on the way to work. I said no, I was going home after this.
"You already finished your work??!!"
'Well, no, not exactly. Just trying to get errands done and get home before the heat got too bad.'
"So what kind of work do you do?"
'I, well, I...' What is it I do exactly? 'I... write.'
"I knew it! You just look like a writer. What do you write?"
'When I am healthy, I write business documents,' I told her, 'but it has been a hard year with a chronic illness flaring up, so right now I write on my blog only.'
"What kind of blog?"
'I'm a Christian, so I write devotional pieces about Christian ideas and what God is teaching me through my health problems.'
The girl asked for my card, and I gave it to her with the blog address. I learned her name, but here I'll call her Buttercream. It was not clear to me whether she wanted the contact information because of the business writing or the blog, so I asked her if she was a Christian too, if that was why she wanted my contact details.
"My friends are Christian, but I am not. My background is Buddhist, but I really think everyone finds their own truth." Oh.
"What about you? What do you think?" Oh!
My heart raced. God was answering my prayer for an open door, and He was answering it right now. Words, Lord. I need Your words.
'Well, I... Christians..." Deep breath, girl. In. Out.
'Christianity is a little different from some of the other world religions in that we believe--the Bible teaches--that there is really only one truth, absolute truth, or what you could call True Truth.' (Thank you, Francis Schaeffer, for that phrase.)
She's nodding, attention locked in. Her boss has excused himself to the back room. No one else is in the shop, so I continue.
'The Bible teaches that there is only one true God, but we aren't smart enough or good enough to find out about Him on our own. We need Him to reveal Himself to us.
'We see some things about Him in the world around us. Nature tells us how powerful He is and that He is eternal. He lives forever. Left to itself, the world should be winding down and falling apart, so there has to be something, Someone, beyond what we see to keep everything continuing on.'
"Yes! I think so too!! There has to be something keeping all this going!"
The back room is still quiet. No more customers have arrived. Full speed ahead then.
'But the greatest way He has revealed Himself to us is in the historic person Jesus Christ. He was God and man, so His life showed us what God is like. Jesus went around teaching and working miracles and healing people. Even more than that, He lived a perfect life. The Bible tells us God is pure and holy, and if we want to be His friends we have to measure up to that standard, too. Only, none of us do. We all mess up and fall short of His perfection.
'Jesus never did, though. He's the only person in all of time who never messed up. He loved us so much that He died on a cross like the worst kind of criminal to pay the penalty we deserved for our wrongdoings so we could be God's friends.
'Because He did that for us, all that's left for us to do is believe in Him, to trust that what He did is enough. If we do that, however, our lives will start to change and look like His life because He comes to live in the hearts of those who believe in Him. We still stumble and get it wrong a lot, but we live better than before because He changes us from the inside out.
'When Christians die, then they will be completely like Jesus and not weighed down by sin anymore. For a Christian, death is actually a good thing, because then we will be like Jesus and be with Him forever.
'Does that make sense?'
"Yes. You should have a book club."
Now I'm confused. 'For, like, Christian books, so you can learn more about this, or what?'
"No, just any kind of book. Or a writing seminar. You explain very clearly."
'Well, I'll think about it. Thank you for saying that.'
"We could have it at your house. Potluck. Easy. You know, if not too much work for you."
'I'll consider it and come back and let you know. You work here every day?'
"Monday through Friday. And I study ESL." She named a local university.
It was a week before I found time to write all this down, and by that time I didn't remember quite how I closed the conversation and left. Shook hands? Very nice to meet her? I don't recall.
Why did I skip from natural revelation to Jesus? Why skip Easter? Why didn't I ask her where she was from or what she was majoring in? Why didn't I ask her if she wanted to trust Christ?
But I didn't. And I didn't have a Bible with me to give her. When I returned home, I found one, bagged it up, and set it in the back of the car, at the ready for the next time I saw her. Then I prayed for her to come to know God through Jesus.
So far, there hasn't been a next time. By the time I returned to the bakery, it had closed. Buttercream has my contact information, but I only knew where she worked. The Bible still rides around behind the driver's seat of our car, waiting for an opportunity. Buttercream is still on my prayer list. Maybe I'll meet her someday, and we'll laugh about how much I got wrong and left out, and the language and cultural differences won't matter anymore.
For now, all I can do is pray for her, offer the opportunity back to the Lord with what I made of it and what I didn't, and ask Him to smother it with grace, grace like frosting on those cupcakes.
"Be wise in the way you act toward outsiders; make the most of every opportunity. Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone" (Colossians 4:5-6, NIV1984).