August 12, 2011 by Nicole
One thing about Facebook that I absolutely love is that it enables you to get in contact with people you haven’t seen in ages and whom you would otherwise probably never see again. One of my old college buddies happened to be on Facebook and we spent about two hours catching up on old times–in some ways it was just like the good ole days when our little group used to hang out in someone’s dorm room and sit and talk until the wee hours of the morning.
One thing that I particularly admire about him is that he is the kind of guy who is a good friend but is also a good Christian. On one hand, I am very lucky in that I am married to a pastor. On the other hand, it’s also a very rare gift to have someone else in your life with whom you can talk about your relationship with God, whom you’re praying for, and your own convictions about your faith. I think I can count on one hand the number of people to whom I have felt close enough to talk about the intimate relationship I have with God and his Son; I was blessed to have met a few of them while on pilgrimage to Lourdes–one of whom just called me out of the blue last week to say hello.
Part of the challenge that I find, at least for myself, is that I am often conflicted about how to “witness” to others the love I have for my Heavenly Father and His Church. Usually, I employ the “preaching to the choir” method. It’s easy to open up in a church amongst other Christians because you all believe the same thing, for the most part. But it occurs to me that while it is important to share this with our fellow Christians when we see that their faith needs some reenergizing, it’s hard to do this same thing for others who aren’t necessarily like us.
The reason that the thought crosses my mind is that on my way home to visit my family up north, I was listening to Rick Warren’s audiobook of The Purpose Driven Life. He is a very brilliant man who speaks of God’s purpose for our lives, and he speaks about the importance of sharing our faith with those who need a spiritual kick in the pants or who drift away from God. When I think about my own ability to “witness,” the Catholic in me experiences extreme anxiety. Us Catholics are, after all, a fairly introspective lot. If you don’t believe me, try having a conversation with someone in the minutes before mass begins–odds are you will get shushed. 🙂 For us, that time is very important because our worship begins the moment you walk into God’s house and prepare to celebrate His mass. You walk into the church, find a pew, pull down the kneeler, and get on your knees and get with God. It’s a very beautiful part of our worship tradition (You can imagine my shock the first time I visited my husband’s church where people were chatting with each other rather than sitting quietly waiting to begin the service. It still takes some getting used to.).
While I always kind of suspected that sharing my faith with others was important, I came back from Lourdes with so much joy and love that I began thinking about how great it would be if everyone could experience what I did. Honestly, I have no idea how to share my faith more openly with others in a way that feels “right.” On one hand, I returned from Lourdes feeling like David did–I want to dance in the streets and sing about the Lord (which would probably get me locked up somewhere) and the great things he has done for me. But the mere thought of walking up to someone and saying “Do you love Jesus?” or “Do you know the Lord?” makes my hair stand on end. Okay, to be honest, it literally makes me cringe. On the other hand, it’s part of what we are called to do as Christians.
You see my dilemma.
So, I think that I have come up with a fairly doable plan, and I think that St. Therese (Affectionately nicknamed “The Little Flower”) is a really excellent model of how to do this for those of us Catholics who struggle with the idea of witnessing and evangelizing–which, incideantally, is part of the mission of the Paulist Fathers with whom I worship. St. Therese is perhaps best loved and revered for her “little way.” She always felt that the best way to honor God was not necessarily by doing something grandiose and spectacular, rather to honor Him by doing the small and ordinary things that God puts in front of us every day–things like household chores, showing kindnesses to others, and the like. It’s beautifully simple in its concept.
What it means for me is that I can witness in very small ways that are easily within my reach. I can talk about how much I love being a Catholic Christian; I can share my experience at Lourdes with people who want to know how my “vacation” was, I can tell people the ways in which I feel that God has blessed me, how much I admire my husband’s commitment to his call as a pastor and his Faith in God, and I can tell people who are always shocked/curious about how a Catholic and a Baptist can love each other and how we share our faith, not to mention what that has taught me about not only being a Christian, but the importance of Christian unity. And that, incidentally, always leads to a dialouge about who God is and why I think He’s pretty cool.
Not a single one of these things, at least from my own experience, is off-putting or preachy to others. I recall, for instance, a few conversations I had with former students over the course of the last semester whom I used to chat with while waiting for others to arrive and the class to start, who asked me a lot of questions about these particular issues just because they were curious and interested. I always marveled at how such a small and simple thing like that afforded me an opportunity to share my own faith with others without abusing my position as an authority or trying to push and agenda on anyone (Which is super important when you are a teacher.).
Hey. If I can do it, so can you.