Do you really think you’re that important?
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’?
If you liked this post, you may also like:
- Brennan Manning, Your Words Changed My Life
- Grace Like Rain
- Recommended Reading On Life, Marriage, and Christian Living
- I’ll See You Again | A Salvation Story