Do you really think you’re that important?

barefoot girl7:45 on Sunday morning always came early.

One summer morning, I was driving down Peachtree and noticed a woman stumbling along the side of the road clearly in the clothes she’d worn the night before and most likely still intoxicated. I drove by her and circled back to see if she needed a ride.

She jumped when I pulled up next to her, but when she saw me she relaxed.

“Do you need a ride?” I asked.

“No, I’m fine.” She said, but just stood there, swaying a little.

“Come on—where are you going? I’ll take you. I don’t want you to cut up your feet.” I said noticing she was barefoot and toted her pink heels in her right hand.

“Ok.” she agreed and plopped her vomit-reeking self into my front seat.

“Where are you going?” There it was. The dreaded question.  

“I’m a Christian and I wake up early on Sunday mornings to volunteer”–has to be the worst thing you can say to a girl  stumbling along Peachtree barefoot and intoxicated.

“Where are you going?” I asked hoping she’d lose her curiosity about my final destination.

She told me where her apartment was and I was disappointed because I knew I didn’t have much more time with her.

“I’m Stephanie, by the way.” She let out a sigh after she said it and opened my mirror to examine herself. We exchanged introductions and she interrupted my question and said, “You never told me where you’re going. . .”

“I’m going to church,” I said and hated myself for not telling her that I was once in her shoes (or lack thereof) stumbling down fraternity row, searching. Her expression told me the mention of church gave her extreme guilt and I knew what she was about to do: anxiously word vomit a list of failures. I hate how the church has this way of summoning guilt instead of what it should be doing: sharing grace.

She told me last night got out of hand and she usually wasn’t ‘this f-ed up’. She told me she didn’t want to go home with ‘those ass holes’ but they started [insert word for drug I’d never heard of] and there was no reasoning with them. She told me how it wasn’t her throw-up I was smelling—it was her friend who threw up on her at the bar. She wasn’t usually a smoker, only when she drank. She finished her confession with “I really need to get back into church—I used to go all the time.”

I wanted wow her with my eloquent speech about God’s grace and mercy and how I, too, was a great sinner. I wanted to tell her how much God loves her and wants to know her. She kept talking about her great sins and I wanted to tell her about a Savior bigger than her past. But I was so nervous and overwhelmed that I simply asked,

“Do you want to come to church with me?”

Ruth (I call myself this when I’m frustrated)—if you were barefoot, smelled like vomit, still intoxicated, had circles of mascara under your eyes, AND had a backless shirt on—would you want to go to church with some polo-wearing cheery church volunteer?

I dropped her off at her apartment, went about my merry way to church, and upon returning home burst into tears. I cried out of sadness for Stephanie, remembering that I too once lived in a world just as dark and confusing as hers. But the part about the story that plagued me for years was my guilt. How could I not have told her about the God her loves her? How could I just pick her up and not share the Good News with her? I felt horrible—like God had given me an opportunity—and I had failed him. Quite miserably.

It took me years to realize that my guilt over not ‘sharing the Gospel’ with Stephanie really had nothing to do with God. God may convict us, but He never condemns us. I was part of an organization that dogmatically taught evangelism—so much so that it was easy to view people being thrown into the lake of fire because of my lack of boldness. That’s a lot of guilt—when people’s salvation hangs on YOUR actions. Guilt would keep me awake at night and caused many nightmares.

That was until I was broken with the question,

“Do you really think you are that important?”

This question changed the way I view evangelism—and the role we are to play in God’s story. It is an enormous privilege to be a part of His story in the lives of others, but we must remember our size. God’s redemption story isn’t going to be thwarted because we have a moment of weakness. That’s the whole message of grace, right? We screw up, but He takes us back. Every single time.

Have you ever had people, an organization, or a church place unrealistic pressure and guilt on you? Would you agree that guilt is never from God? Are you hung up on your own ‘importance’?

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Comments
18 Responses to “Do you really think you’re that important?”
  1. Ana Sofia says:

    Hey Ruthie,
    I am horrible at sharing the Gospel. Please pray for me?
    -A

    • Ruthie Dean says:

      Hi Ana, don’t give yourself too hard of a time! Prayer for boldness is always good and God will give you the words. But just remember God isn’t hanging others salavation on your actions or inactions.

      Thanks for commenting!

  2. Jess says:

    Hi Ruthie…I so relate with you. There is this girl who was my neighbor,Okay, the boyfriend was the neighbor. She had moved in with Him and my heart was so broken to see that…then was planning to tell her about God,about how valuable she is, about how much God loves and there was some misunderstanding between them(her and the boyfriend) and she packed and went back to her parents.

    While there,an accident happened and she died….lemme tell you It took me a while to forgive myself and stop blaming myself for not sharing Jesus with her.

    I thought if I had only just shared Jesus with her immediately instead of waiting to build relationship first,then wait to tell her that God loves her so much and He forgives and Jesus died for her….

    Just the thought of where she was going to spend her eternity was killing me. It was my procrastination that caused that…

    But anyway, God does not look at us that way.Redemption is HIS

    • Ruthie Dean says:

      Wow, Jess. What a story! It is NOT your fault. As you said, redemption is ALWAYS His. Thanks for sharing? Anyone else relate to Jess’s story?

      • Rae says:

        Wow, Jess. I experienced something very similar. It’s good to know I’m not the only one…

        I worked alongside a young unsaved woman for a year. I shared a bit with her, and whe knew I was a Christian. She would get drunk and call me and cry about life, and I was there for her. She had some serious mental issues and ended up on suicide watch at one point. I prayed for her… a little. I shared with her… a little.

        Well, she killed herself 4 years ago and I knew she had not acceped Christ. It killed me and I felt so much pain and anguish over her death. I struggled for 2 years with feeling partially responsible for her eternity. I felt horribly guilty and sick inside. I felt I’d been so selfish… If only I had prayed more, or been more bold with her, etc etc.

        I learned through this process that, no, it is not my fault she died in a lost state. We are living witnesses and people see Jesus through our lives, not just from our words. I have been in situations where I never said one word about Jesus and someone asked me about spirituality and salvation. No matter whether I’m planting the seeds of salvation or watering them, or am blessed enough to reap the harvest and pray with them to accept Christ, I am proclaiming Him daily by letting Him live through me.

        I believe you said it best – Redemption is His. Praise God. You aren’t responsible, be it due to action nor inaction! God placed her on the hearts of many others as well, I’m sure. Now I imagine you feel more of an urgency to share the gospel, as do I from my experience. But ultimately, the choice was hers.

        And you never know… maybe she made a decision for Christ an hour before her death… It happens!

  3. Lily (aka) says:

    Thank you so much for this post. I have been feeling rather guilty and hopeless about lost opportunity.

    And one of my leaders preached on how God’s plan is not detered by man’s lack of actions and that if His plan is for someone to get saved, He will make it happen with or without my involvement.

    This was also very helpful for me to get over myself.

    Thank you so much Ruthie.

    • Ruthie Dean says:

      Hi Lily,

      We all need to get over ourselves, don’t we? I’m glad you have a good leader who is preaching truth–not heaping guilt on your already weary shoulders.

      Thanks for commenting.

  4. L says:

    It’s good to be reminded of this…I am an enthusiastic sharer-of-my-faith, but many times I feel I’ve done more harm than good! Ironically, when I became a Christian my interest started through hearing some talks at the Christian Union events’ week. However the speaker received a lot of complaints from the CU from his presentation style, yet God clearly still worked through His abrasive style to draw me in.

    • Ruthie Dean says:

      Nice! I love that God is not limited by our failures, poor presentations, sins, weaknesses, etc. People’s salvation does not hang on my performance and that truth frees me up to share with joy. Thanks for sharing. Let me know if you want to write a guest post about becoming a Christian and what that was like for you:)

  5. Edward Lin says:

    Thank you for the sobering reminder of how ministry is a privilege, not a means of inflating/deflating egos.

  6. Andie sj says:

    I can relate to this so much!
    I’ve just finished my first year at university. In the first term I joined the Christian Union which focuses massively on evangelism (it’s not a bad thing, it’s great that they’re out there making sure everyone on our campus gets an opportunity to hear and respond to the gospel, and I really admire that). But I started feeling so guilty about not sharing the gospel with everyone I knew. So much so that the first thing I would think about when making a new friend would be telling them about Jesus. It got to the point where I was seeing people as projects rather than friends. It wasn’t until I calmed down and started building actual relationships when things got better and the pressure was off. And it’s amazing to see what conversations about God you can have when you know people as friends. It’s like they somehow know that you’re not just trying to “convert” them, but that you sincerely care!

    • Ruthie Dean says:

      Hi Andie! I was with the same organization–so I know exactly where you are coming from. I’m sad to say we are not the only ones who turned people into projects! When I was living in China, I had lists of girls to check off after I shared. . .it completely took God out of the equation when it was all on my watch on the way I’d been instructed to share. I “didn’t have time for deep relationships”. I ended up leaving the organization (for other reasons), but afterwards was finally able to develop deep friendships and see enormous life change with a few. Developing friendships with people for love, not conversion, is always best. People not projects!

      Anyone else ever started to see people as projects? What was the result?

  7. such a beautiful post. “Do you really think you are that important?” is such a convicting question. it’s true though – and how freeing it is to realize that it’s not what i can say or do or show someone else that is going to “change” them but that it is God working in their lives. i’d much rather have it that way!

  8. Lauren says:

    Thank you so much for a beautifully written, honest post. I think that when we start seeing evangelism as a duty in which we can “succeed” or “fail,” we stop being able to exude to others the grace and redemption we have found in Christ. And sometimes it can even turn into a way to rack up “wins” and “losses” in a spiritual competition with ourselves. But I’ve found that somehow, God is able to use even our deepest failures to accomplish his purposes and build his kingdom. I’m humbled by the way he is able to take whatever we have to offer, large or small, and do more with it than we could ever do on our own.

  9. Paul says:

    Thank for your this article.

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