Wednesday, December 15, 2004

morning commute

there was a woman on the bus monday night, the #66. she sat at the front of the bus and was in the middle of testifying to the rest of the bus. all the other riders were scrunched to the back, avoiding her eyes. she said, 'i used to be a liar, a thief, verbally abusive, and stressed out and now the love of jesus has redeemed me and i just want to tell you about the love of jesus. he can give you a new spirit, a good spirit. he can make your life whole again. all you have to do is cast your trust on him and give your life to him.' and so on.

when a passenger de-bused, she'd stop her story to smile and say, 'god bless.' they'd either smile nervously or say it back.

i went out the back door. i was uncomfortable. i couldn't help it. i've always been uncomfortable with public testimony - especially when it looks crazy. when i was a teenager, my youth group would get together every so often to do some witnessing role play. total nightmare. one day, a church leader told me i needed to be more of an example to the younger girls who needed to see me witness more. i just nodded and moved away from him.

there is no performance fear; i've given conference papers, taught and led presentations. i've given speeches to labor organizations, reports to university administration and hectored an english department. like my preacher father, all i need is a soapbox.

but all of these things make sense to me. testifying or witnessing? this makes no sense. my own conversion is barely understandable to myself, let alone to a complete stranger. my own wobbly christian faith is barely sustainable to me, much less some bored guy on a bus who just wants to get home in the cold night and have a beer. and the weird logic of witnessing - someone else's faith depends on hearing the story of my faith - creeps me out.

it's like the guy who told me once that i had a christian duty to tell all my gay friends they were going to hell. when i asked him why, what will change spiritually for either one of us, he had nothing to say except that i'm supposed to.

perhaps we've won a little heavenly gold star; we've shared our wretched tale of sin and redemption, forced it on a stranger and then we say, you too could live the life of grace i'm living now! we look crazy, like the man on those commercials for enhanced erections. ("look at bob! he used to be limp and lifeless - a vienna sausage. but now! he's got wood!") whether someone responds to us seems to be beside the point. the point is the telling. i think. what's the point again? honestly. i've forgotten.

the woman from the bus monday night was on my bus again this morning (the # 65); i couldn't believe it. i sank behind the person in front of me and watched her tuck her bus card inside her shirt, settle in, take a look around and announce, 'good morning everybody. i just want to share a little of my testimony with you all. i've made a change in my life and i need to share it. jesus saved me from a life of sin...'

when my stop came, i left out the back door.
if i see her again i will freak. out.

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