Risk for the sake of the Gospel

Does "witnessing" make you want to hide?

Does “witnessing” make you want to hide?

I just had a couple of unexpected visitors. Two women, carrying Bibles, nicely dressed, pressed the bell and freaked out the Corgi. They asked me if was familiar with prejudice, and if I ever perceived of a day when it would no longer be a concern. I said, “Well, I suppose when the Kingdom comes.” That pleased the older woman, who still read me a verse from Acts and left me with a Watchtower magazine.

As they were sharing, I tried to get into what I call “spiritual director mode”–opening myself up to what’s going on within me, being prayerful on behalf of the person I’m with and trying to listen to the Holy Spirit, all at the same time. Today I got no further than opening myself up. I discovered I was nervous on behalf of these women and my attentiveness stemmed from my own desire that they feel heard. “They deserve to feel heard because of the risk they’re taking,” I heard myself say.

My reactions indicate my own insecurities about what we traditionally call “witnessing.” The further someone is from God, the more anxious I become about saying a word on God’s behalf. I don’t think I am called to do door-to-door pamphlet dispersion but I want to be able to see an opening–that piece of soil where God’s Word might take hold–and offer some seeds. I will never be like these ladies today. I will never be one who scatters seed broadly (perhaps even sowing in someone else’s field. But I do long to sow more, to have my seeds at hand, to scatter them without anxiety or fear and trust God for the harvest.

Frankly, I’m not really sure how to improve my sowing abilities. I am praying that the attentiveness that I’ve cultivated through my spiritual direction training will be more available to me all the time. I think that must include attentiveness to the fact that my call is simple (scatter seeds) where the work of growth is God’s. (If you have an ideas on how to unhook the anxiety from seed scattering, please comment!)

I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately because of a recent sermon by Fr. Gregory Whitaker on taking risks to share the life of God. So far, my attention has focused on the man who is caretaker of Lincoln Park, the park where I walk Roxie. I see him almost every day–sometimes twice a day–when I am walking her. Roxie is a great witness herself–she spreads joy to many people and this man definitely has a soft spot for her. So we usually end up chatting for a few minutes about nothing much–the weather, the grass, the late planting of the garden, how adorable my dog is–and I pray, I pray for a blessing for this man, for God’s life to meet him in his everyday life.

Lord God, give me your love for your children, the love that casts out all fear. Let your Holy Spirit show me where to leave the seeds of your Word that you have given me to share–and let me share them with gladness and joy. Amen.

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2 thoughts on “Risk for the sake of the Gospel

  1. Gail

    Sometimes just being kind is enough, Lisa. We often forget that the Holy Spirit is the One Who does the work. I will tell you that I don’t listen to JW’s. I have scolded an older person for leading the younger astray and I try to be clear that we are not speaking of the same Jesus. Its not good to compare yourself to someone who is participating in a “work your way to heaven” program. And we can always pray for them.

    Reply
    1. Lisa Traylor Post author

      I agree that the call to be kind or offer hospitality is often what we’re called to–the times I’ve stopped and helped someone or listened to them because I’ve sensed that’s what the Lord wants are almost always a huge blessing to me–sometimes I wonder if that response isn’t more for me that the person I’ve interacted with.

      I think we’ve established in the past that I don’t have the same call as you do, Gail. Having grown up in a branch of Christianity that often gets lumped with Jehovah’s Witnesses, I don’t agree that they are necessarily leading people astray who would otherwise be “good Christians.” (Which, I suppose is what I’m reading into your comment.) I agree that works righteous is wrong, my point was that these women were taking a risk that I am personally uncomfortable with for the sake of the Gospel. I always want to be ready to respond like Jesus did in Luke 7, to do something socially awkward, something unasked for–something that feels risky to me–when that’s what the Lord wants from me. The fact that I’m seeing that in someone I think is off base spiritually simply convicts me further that I need to be all the more firmly rooted in Christ–to act out of his love, not out of a guilt-ridden work-righteousness response.

      Reply

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