Unfriendly. Standoffish. Aloof.
Those three ungainly words describe the appearance of my character when I am among people I do not know very well. It is not in my nature to seek out people and strike up friendships with them out of the blue.
Take the above photo, for example. On a vacation last year, I spent a great deal of my time snapping photos and contorting myself into unusual positions to get (what I hoped would be) creative shots. There were crowds of people as far as my eye could see…yet I did not engage even ONE Of those people in conversation. I was content to spend my time behind the lens rather than out in the fray, engaging people.
It’s also interesting to me, when I look back through my photos, that I tend to prefer non-human subjects: flowers, oceans, shells, buildings, clouds, landscapes, etc. I don’t feel comfortable photographing strangers (unless, of course, they’ve engaged me as their photographer!) because it feels somehow….intrusive.
Often I am encased in my own little world inside my head. I’ve noticed this phenomenon especially in grocery stores. I have a list scrolling in my head, so there isn’t much room in my brain for striking up conversations with complete strangers!
All this self reflection is due to a comment my daughter made to me this morning and a commentary about hell that I read in yesterday’s newspaper. The columnist queried whether today’s Christians really believe that Jesus is the ONLY way to heaven.
If we truly believed it, we would quit our jobs and spend every waking moment trying to save people from the flames — just as we would save someone from a burning house.
The author concluded that this kind of old-fashioned belief — that Jesus is the ONLY path to heaven — is on the wane and that many Christians, including himself, believe that Jesus is only one of several ways to eternal life. To think otherwise, he said, is to keep God in “a very small box.”
This morning my daughter told me I was one of “THOSE” Christians who is all talk, no action. In the words of the columnist, I am a monster because I don’t spend every minute trying to save people from the flames.
What, exactly, do I DO to share the good news?
The truth is, for me, God IS kept in a small box up inside my head and in my heart. My social circle is filled with people who already believe Jesus is the only way to heaven. Do I have any friends who are not believers? Am I actively reaching out to the community as a whole, and not just to those I already know? Am I seeking out friendships with the lost? Or insulating myself in my own crowd?
This kind of introspection hurts. My inclination is to make friends with people after they first approach me. I can’t go and make disciples when I’m not actually going anywhere –or if my eyes are closed and my mind is occupied with grocery lists.
But those people in the grocery store ARE my neighbors. When Jesus taught a lesson on who is a neighbor, he told a story about the Good Samaritan. A neighbor is anyone who happens to walk by.
My mother-in-law is gifted with the ease of an extreme extrovert. She has literally taken the grocery store bagger home for Christmas dinner. She befriends people everywhere she goes, I think, in part, because she SEES them.
So how, then, can I follow Jesus as an introvert, without becoming a monster? I do not wish the lake of fire on anyone! People are spiritually burning all around us…and all they need is for someone to show them love.
Lord, let that someone be me. Help me get out of my own head so I can SEE.