Watching my younger daughter learn to ride a bike was – well, painful.
Hands gripping the handlebars with elbows stuck out like an imitation of the Chicken Dance, she careened down the sidewalk in a zigzag pattern that looked like she was traversing switchbacks up the side of a mountain cliff. My husband trotted beside her, trying to stabilize the bike.
As she veered toward the street, Jack hollered at her to stop. Without braking, slowing, or even putting a foot down, still holding the handlebars with a death-grip, she vaulted over the seat and landed on both feet.
I must have gasped. Jack ordered me in the house. “There’s some things dads and daughters have to do and mothers have to turn their heads,” he told me.
She was ecstatic. She had ridden her bike. Didn’t she do a great job?
Well . . . if you call that riding a bike.
I wonder if God feels that way about how I maneuver through witnessing opportunities.
With our older daughter’s wedding scheduled for December 9th, I hinted loudly that, as far as I was concerned, we could forget Christmas. My head reeled with details: what I would wear, food for the reception, room reservations and flight schedules for incoming family. Life could not possibly get any busier.
The week after my daughter’s bridal shower, my husband’s medical team informed us he needed two surgeries that would bookend the wedding. My perspectives on life, family, and the small details of life underwent a major transformation. Life entered the refiner’s fire as I learned to let go of insignificant details like what I wore to a wedding. As long as my family was together in relatively one piece, jewelry and shoes didn’t matter.
Two days before his second surgery, my husband felt well enough to drive me to get a manicure. My manicurist and a talkative customer discussed the busy-ness of the season, then asked me who would be at my house for Christmas.
“Just my one daughter, my husband and me. It’s going to be a small Christmas,” I replied. Their sympathetic responses pushed my courage button. “That’s all right. My husband is in between two surgeries and we just had our other daughter’s wedding. All the crazy events and my husband’s health has made me appreciate what’s really important – my family and my faith.”
“We need to get back to the real reason for Christmas,” my fellow customer said.
I smiled big. “Yes, that’s right and all this stuff has made me, you know, appreciate the real reason.”
Wow! God! Did You hear? I WITNESSED! I said the FAITH word.
Faith in what? Faith in who? The Holy Spirit probed my conscience with the tough questions.
But-but-but, I didn’t want to offend anyone with the name of Jesus, especially my Vietnamese manicurist.
At last I answered in a wee voice. I didn’t do a very good job, did I?
God’s spirit didn’t need to say anything. I knew the answer.
Um, can I try again?
That’s one prayer I did not expect God to answer. Wouldn’t you know, two days later when I went to the hospital gift while my husband was in recovery, the clerk threw the door of witnessing opportunity wide open by wishing me a Merry Christmas.
“Merry Christmas to you!” I said. “It’s the best day of the year.” Where did that come from? Wasn’t I the one who wanted to skip Christmas?
“I don’t know,” she said. “Christmas has become so commercialized. That’s all it is anymore.”
“We don’t have to let it be that way,” I responded. And I told my story again. I used the words faith and family again. I told her our life circumstances has caused me to celebrate the real reason behind Christmas.
I still didn’t mention the name of Jesus.
My soul looked Heavenward. Was that better? I think I heard Heaven sigh.
I was still gripping the handlebars of fear.
The Lord is so patient. Like a father who encourages his child to get back up on that bike and try again, the Lord gave me yet another chance. What blows my mind is that each of these people prompted the conversation. My audience listened respectfully. All responded to my words with an “Ah ha” kind of moment.
God gave me a third chance. This time, it happened in a grocery store line two days before Christmas. “What’s your plans for Christmas?” the young male clerk asked.
Same song, third verse. Small family. Hard two months. Evaluate what’s important. Family, my faith, and – gulp – my love for Jesus is what’s important. “That’s what I’m going to celebrate,” I told the clerk. I had a lot less time and more pressure from three people standing in line behind me to get it all in.
I inhaled, waiting for the glazed look of rejection Christians often expect when we dare to mention the name of Jesus.
The cashier grinned. “You just have the best attitude!’
This time, I couldn’t stop. As he bagged my groceries, I told him how the tough times make us stronger and refine us to realize what is important in life. “The past two months have made me choose to focus on what Christmas is supposed to be about anyway.”
With that we wished each other – using the words – Merry Christmas.
What holds you back from taking advantage of witnessing opportunities?
Like my daughter’s bike-riding, my witnessing skills still need a lot of work. Yes, we should be discerning and respectful toward other people’s beliefs and readiness to hear. We also need to remember that the time is short, hell is real, and we have the life-saving message that will save their souls. We have the peace and release they desperately need. And, as I discovered with each of my three encounters, people are more ready to listen and engage in conversation than we think or fear they are.
We won’t know how willing others are to hear and accept the name of Jesus if we don’t attempt to speak it.
Abba Father, can we go on another bike ride?
How have your tough times refined your to-do list? What witnessing opportunities have you had in the last week? Share in a comment below.