I knew just as soon as I opened my inbox, I was the wrong recipient of that message. This comes from one of the unique people I call "friend."
Why are we an unlikely couple?
We are so different, we actually come from opposite sides of the country. I am a Carolina Girl, and she hails from California. What is that Beach Boys song? Other than that, I am a 34 year old Christian mom of 7 children, and she is a single 22 year old wild child. When I asked her if I could blog about our relationship, she said
"Yes. Name it 'Befriending the Jezebel' or 'My Best Friend the Heathen'"
She then joked about the headline:
Today on Jesus Flunky: befriending sinners.
That is when I replied, "Recognizing you are a sinner is the first step to salvation."
She said, "Then I guess you are winning."
We are two worlds apart ,and yet closely connected. We both have dearly loved family in the same obscure small town in Georgia. There is no main highway and most would not know it if you mentioned it . That is not a coincidence.
I tell her all the time, God made her be my friend, and she had no choice. She knew no one when she moved to South Carolina, and I lived near her. She jokes and says that I am a stay at home mom and had no life. I was there with her when she celebrated her 21st birthday, and had just moved here. We went to the grocery store because I was going to make dinner for her. I grabbed some fresh mushrooms for her burger, and she picked up a six pack to commemorate her 21 year old milestone. I stood behind her in line and nervously pushed the six pack a little further away from my groceries in the checkout line. The cashier eyed me suspiciously and looked at my friend while she proudly grabbed her I.D. and presented it. The cashier took little notice of the I.D. and demanded I give her mine as well. I corrected her that the beer was not mine. She told me she didn't care and because I was with her, I had to show mine too. But, there was a problem. I didn't have my I.D. I was the reason beer was not bought. We still laugh about that.
Why would you associate with someone buying beer?
Aren't you a Christian?
First, there is a lot of debate among Christians about the drinking of alcohol and I choose not to get in that debacle. It is not the outside that makes you clean, but the inward issues of the heart. I choose to stay away because it was a stumbling block for me, but Jesus sat with drunkards and prostitutes. I'm not Jesus, but he is living inside of me, and his love swells for others that do not know him.
My friend and I have had deep conversations that have peeled back layers of pretense and self preservation on both parts. I share more than she does, but I listen to understand when she opens up. I speak to her about my sin, and my victories. I dig out my deep uglies to show her I do not think I am better than her. There have been times we locked heads on controversial topics, and we both walked away knowing that we were loved. If I have had to point out something that goes against my faith, I never slap a "that is wrong" on it. I give her personal applications even if that means I tell her about my junk.
After a long time of friendship, she opened up about something very personal, and said to me,
"After every time you shared about your own experience, it took a little bit of the pain away. My heart doesn't hurt so much anymore."
A wall is built one block at a time, and so it is with tearing one down. Never underestimate the power of that part of love called patience or longsuffering.
She knows there are some absolutes in my life, and I will use every opportunity I have to connect them to her. These absolutes are not meant for me to use as an abrasive scouring pad . She does not walk away feeling beaten and bruised. I told her the other day that if she kept saying "Oh my God," she was going to get saved cause He hears us when we call. After that, she started using, "oh my goodness."
California Girl sends me scriptures if she thinks I am down, and goes to functions at church for my kids. Once, she went to church when I couldn't. She proudly sent me a text to let me know I was a slacker. She has helped me make gifts for church and paid exorbitant taxi fees to come for a visit. She introduced me to the Selfie song, and taught me what a "hipster" was. We have had traditional slumber parties that ended with us so tired, we can't remember who said shut up last.
One night, my husband and I went on a date to the local bar and grill. We sat in the bar area to watch his favorite team play. Free shots came around when there was a touchdown and we declined. The waitress gave us a strange look and insisted they were free. We thanked her and still declined. That night at checkout, there was another waitress that my husband struck a conversation with. I was tired and ready to go home, but walked back to them.
Remember those absolutes I spoke of?
Somehow, some way , I found a way to talk to her about the Lord. It wasn't pushy and obtrusive. She spoke of some of her struggles, and victories. We invited her to the Christmas play our children were in at church, and said our goodbyes shortly after. She didn't come, but I thought of her often and prayed for her.
One year later, our pastor was asking congregants to share personal experiences about evangelising. We were sitting up front, and my husband stood and presented that he was more of the coordinator or host, and then he would "unleash his bulldog." He was referring to me. After he sat down, Pastor pointed to someone in the back. A woman stood up, and said " I can attest to that. I met her in a bar and she talked to me about God and invited me to church!"
Are you mortified I was in a bar? I won't apologize. I understand the glutton may not need to go to the doughnut shop to spread the good news if they are on a diet. No, you don't give your buddy a ride to go cheat on his wife and there are boundaries you have as a believer. But, it does not stop you from being a light. We should redeem the times. There are many seekers that are not going to come to church. God is calling them, and they are open to his message. We are the ones that have to share that message.
My California girl says, "I know that there must be a God. I look at nature and know I am not alone." I will walk with her, and pray for her. I will love her and all the others God puts on my path. I have Muslim friends that have allowed me to pray for them, and gay friends that tell me their struggles. I speak the truth, tell it like it is, and stand firm in my convictions while holding out friendship. I am not ashamed of Jesus, and not ashamed of the harvest. I find it easier to speak about sin with sinners than some that grew up in the church and have compromised with gossip, manipulations and self righteousness.
Many of the people that impressed Jesus with their faith, were the gentiles and unclean. It was not the ones that had the Prophets and the Law.
Mark 9:40-41 For he who is not against us is for us. For whoever gives you a cup of water to drink because of your name as followers of Christ, truly I say to you, he will not lose his reward.
What is your most unusual encounter you have had with someone while sharing your faith?