Friday, June 19, 2009

Responsibility (An Addendum to a T-shirt)

Okay, so in my last article, I talked about the idea of being afraid to “stick out” in a crowd, the fear of being different in society. I asked the question, if I am so able and willing to show the world who my favorite sports team is, why should I be afraid of showing the world that I am a big fan of Jesus? I related the scariness of being in a foreign country to blending in… and then to how we Christians tend to want to blend in to society rather than show the difference He has made in our lives. I talked about my decision to be more diligent in “wearing” my beliefs emotionally and physically… enter my collection of Christian T-shirts…

I have one with a picture of a skunk that says “Sin Stinks… I didn’t do it!” I have one that says “Holy Roller” on a roller skate. I have one that says “Jesus is my BFF” and then there is the black one that has a picture of a stick figure in a fire on the front and on the back says, “Friends don’t let friends go to Hell.”

Yes, I wear them proudly but I felt moved to share a little story with you… a story of a slight blunder I made.

It had been a long day of parenting, one of those days where I was counting the minutes until Brett’s bedtime… he had been challenging, I had been challenging… we just hadn’t had a good day (I’m sure none of you parents out there have any idea what I’m talking about). Well, the bedtime ritual had begun and for some reason my hubby wasn’t home so it was all up to me that night. We had finished brushing teeth after 10 minutes of whining “I don’t like this toothpaste.” We had gone pee-pee after 10 minutes of “but I don’t have to go pee-pee” and we were in the middle of putting PJ’s on after a 15 minute battle about “but I don’t want to wear THOSE pajamas.”

Just as I was helping Brett slide on his blue pajama top (which was the honorable mention choice of sleepwear) the doorbell rang. The dog began barking and all hell broke lose. After a short but apparently not long enough pause, I slowly walked over to the door and opened it.

With Brett at my leg and the dog trapped in the bathroom barking, my eyes fell upon a man I had never seen before. He smiled and said, “Good evening ma’am… My name is John and I’m out here today to see if can help you with your siding needs. We have a great sale going on and I’m ready to offer you a great deal.”

Annoyed… okay… really annoyed I interrupted him and spoke in a tone of voice that would have made satan himself run for cover. I said “I’m not sure if you noticed, but my house is brick… I don’t need any siding. Besides, I am trying to put my son to bed after a really long day.” I looked at my watch and continued, “do you think you could find a better time to walk around bothering people?” He starred at me blankly then began to tell me to have a nice night but I didn’t even let him finish… I turned and slammed the door.

I know, I know… I was a total bitch! To be honest, I felt really bad about the way I had treated him. Almost immediately I realized I hadn’t stopped to think at all before I spoke. My mouth had just gone off on autopilot. I wanted to run down the street to apologize but I was too embarrassed. Worst of all, my son witnessed my horrible behavior. After telling him how wrong it was for me to treat the man that way, I went back to the business of putting Brett to bed and before too long, the house was quiet.

I went into the bathroom to wash my face and stopped to look at myself. I thought, “Well, aren’t you proud of yourself Wendy?” and that’s when I realized something more awful than all of it… I had on my pretty pink t-shirt that says “Love Thy Neighbor” in GIANT letters. Argh… a final stab of forced humility. I imagined the damage I may have done to God’s kingdom with that 5 seconds of unfiltered words. Sure, he was just one man but let’s say he was on the fence between committing to a life with Christ or heading the opposite direction… my actions, coupled with the t-shirt could have very easily made him turn away saying, “and that’s why I can’t stand Christians!” He was merely trying to make some wages… he was doing his job… and quite kindly I must say.

Dear mister siding sales guy – I am really sorry for being so horrible to you… and no… Christians aren’t supposed to act that way… but we aren’t perfect either, which I suppose is the point of our Christianity. We need forgiveness for our thoughtlessness and cruelty. You didn’t deserve the way I acted and I pray that wherever you are, God will put the right person in front of you to show you the way Jesus means us to live. I humbly ask for your forgiveness.

The moral of the story here is that my Christian t-shirts should have come with an official, legal contract which clearly states that the wearer of said t-shirt promises to conduct themselves in the proper manner while wearing and since the store didn’t provide me with such a document, it is really not my fault. Just kidding… the moral of the story is that all Christians make mistakes…but when I choose to step out into society, claiming Jesus as the Way, the Truth and the Light… I do have a responsibility to do my best to wear Him in a way that actually shows the world His light. There’s already enough darkness out there.

Tuesday, June 09, 2009

Blending In

I am sitting here in Grand Cayman watching the palm trees blow in the wind and the waves crash on the beach from my condo porch. I'm drinking my coffee and I feel nothing short of relaxed and confident. I'm comfortable in my surroundings. I'm steady in my own little world, even though I have only resided in this room for a little over 2 days. But when I open the door to venture out into the new and different world of the Cayman Islands, a different country, my security bottoms out and I am left feeling vulnerable.

My husband chuckled at me yesterday when I told him I was “afraid' to walk into the local restaurant we picked for dinner. Yes, I was afraid, not terrified, but definitely uncomfortable. I suppose its because I fear being different, not doing things correctly and being regarded as another one of those stupid Americans that comes to the islands without respect of the culture and people who call this their home. Isn't it sad that this is what I think of my own people... that we would be seen as “stupid Americans.” I am sorry if I have offended anyone with that statement.

As I step out on this vacation trying new things, I have to make the choice to step through the fear I have because if I don't make that choice I will just end up sitting in my condo for the entire week watching the Home and Garden Channel, safe but perhaps not very smart.... now that is the definition of a stupid American!!! When I look into the truth behind the fear, I find the real problem is in the lack of knowledge and understanding of my surroundings. The real answer isn't to hide and it isn't to just “blend in” because if I were to do that I wouldn't actually learn anything. The only way to find peace in my steps is to humble myself and be willing to learn and absorb what this place has to offer.

Last week in one of my book studies, a topic of discussion was the fact that some people are afraid to embrace the life of a Christian because they are afraid others will view them as one of those Jesus Freaks or Religious Nut-bags. It's true that many of us Christians walk around in fear of the “Jesus Freak” tag... so much that the average person we come in contact with has no idea one way or another where we stand. In other words, we blend in to society as to not stand out... our goal is to fly under the radar for as long as possible yet still be able to say to God... “take me to heaven with you – I am a Christian!”

I would be lying if I told you I don't have the same fear... in fact... I tagged myself with the title “Jesus Freak” on Facebook just so no one else could do it for me. I am a fairly open Christian but the fear is still with me. I fear that I won't get chance to really get to know a person because they will be afraid of my Christianity, meaning they will think I am a hypocritical, judgmental dirt-bag (the Christian version of Stupid American). I'm not saying we should all just run out there and start shouting “Hey... I'm a believer in Christ!!!!” but what I am saying is that maybe we shouldn't be so afraid live like we believe in Christ. Jesus told us to love others the way He has loved us... in that simple action we can show the world what Christianity is without saying a word. Trust me, people will notice.

On the not-so-silent side... a teacher of mine once got me thinking about this... does the world, the people I come in contact with, the people I see on a daily basis, do they know what sports team I like???? Yes. How do they know that? Well, I wear it. Not only physically but mentally. I have dozens of t-shirts that say “Green Bay Packers.” My language and conversations reflect and acknowledge them as a team I follow. For goodness sake, I even named my son Brett after the great Mr. Favre... if that doesn't say “fan” I don't know what does. So why then shouldn't I wear my Christianity the same way? Why shouldn't I show the world that I am a fan of Jesus Christ? I really liked this analogy a lot. So much that I decided to be more purposeful in my physical and mental actions to show Christ's love. I have some really cute Christian t-shirts that I wear proudly and I do my best to speak of my beliefs when it fits... instead of just doing my best to blend in.

After all, what good does being a Christian do if I just keep it all to myself? I don't want to blend in so well that no one sees the difference Christ has made in my life. That would be like paying thousands of dollars to sit in a Cayman Islands condo just to watch the Home and Garden Channel (stupid American). Well, I've got to go put on my “Sin Stinks” t-shirt and take in some snorkling at Rum Point! See ya later!!!!