I’ve never considered myself good at evangelizing… or “sharing the Gospel”. In fact, I realized this past weekend, that I’m much better at sharing my love of the Green Bay Packers.
This Sunday was “Game Day Sunday” at the church I’ve been attending for the past few months. With the lineup of the Vikings playing the Lions, and several mid-sermon jabs made at my beloved cheeseheads, I knew my jersey would not be welcomed at church on Sunday. This, of course, made me all the more excited to sport my forest green and gold gear. Persecution is much too strong a word for what I experienced that morning, but nevertheless, I counted four comments made about my team of choice, including one made during the service. It was enough to make me feel out of place. Not me personally, but my team. Still, I stood strong and beamed brightly. To their grumbling, “Packers,” I smiled proudly, “Of course.”
Is there a passion or team you love that you are criticized for? Think. Does the criticism or friendly competition weaken your love, or somehow, make it stronger?
Musing at the possible message I was living in those moments, I realized that my “come to Packers” story is one that is much more clear than my “come to Jesus” testimony. In fact, I remember the exact moment that this team found its way into my heart. I was in the third grade. Our student teacher was an incredibly passionate Packers fan. His joy abounding, spread amongst us, and resonated with me. Often sporting the famed forest green and gold, he shamelessly boasted of his confidence in this team. He loved the Packers so much so that he named his chocolate lab Packer. How could I not fall in love with the team especially on the day he brought his dog to visit during recess? Who can deny a Green Bay Packers loving dog? Surely, not me.
That’s how I want to be about Jesus. Jesus, who has always been there for me, and will always be there for me. He provides in ways I could never even imagine, and He continues to work in me and grow me, even when I don’t ask Him to. Just as we celebrate as our beloved cheeseheads pave their way to victory, I hope to celebrate the touchdown Victory Jesus already won for us. I want to have this blissful boldness proudly proclaiming Jesus with everyone I encounter, and I’ll admit, I don’t always have that passion to proclaim.
It’s on weeks like this one when I do want to shout it out to the world, “There’s salvation, victory, peace and love in Jesus!” When something terrible, unexpected, and frustrating happens like open fire at the concert in Las Vegas, I want others to know there’s comfort and healing in Jesus Christ. I can’t imagine the immense fear, and trauma that will follow for those who attended, but still I try to. Every time something like this happens I attempt to put myself in the shoes of the people there – those who escaped, those who didn’t, those who expected their friend/family member to escape, but didn’t, and even the lost, lonely soul who done it. And I break inside. I question God, “Why?” and “Where are you?” My focus shifts to fear, and the ever surrounding darkness of our world today. I don’t want to let fear win, but sometimes it’s incredibly hard to shake off.
And then I hear the the lyrics, You are good, good, ohh ohh, and my focus is directed back to God as he pulls me out of the fear, darkness or hopelessness that try to consume my thoughts. God is good. God is Green-Bay-Packers good. There is definitely a darkness in the world, and as much as I am tempted to give into the fear of tragedy and pain, the King of my heart already has the victory in His Hands!
“The Light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has NOT overcome it.”
-John 1:5 (ESV, emphasis mine)
This is what I know to be true, and through the typing of these words onto this page, I will ardently admit that I believe what our world needs is a whole lot more Jesus. I know this because I know that I need a whole lot more Jesus. Last week, I was visiting with one of my closest friends, and we were sharing our struggles, and it felt so good! For awhile, I felt like I was the only one struggling through life, but apparently, we all do! Which is why I try to freely share my struggles, even the ones that hurt to admit, because God connects us through pain, and redeems us through community. So here’s whats going on in my world:
- Lately, I’ve had this inexplicable fear and anxiety… Not of harm to myself, but what if I hurt someone else? I have no reason to have these thoughts anxiously tearing through my mind, as I care more about others (animals included) than I do myself. But they’re there, and they’re frightening. But do you know what eases them? Prayer, Scripture, and this (embarrassing) moment of confession. I can’t hide from them by binging Netflix, but the more Scripture I immerse myself in, the sooner they fade away. My roommate shared with me the power of Psalm 91, and on the days that I have been reading it in the morning and evening, I feel His peace. And it is beautiful.
- It’s not easy being unemployed. But God has fulfilled my days with reminders of His presence and love. My favorite was my hike last week. Though my phone was grounded to a weekend of rice bathing because of it, I so cherished the afternoon of walking in the sunshine, and then during the rainstorm. I even made some friends for the last mile, or so, of the journey. There’s nothing I love more than making strangers into friends. It was a simple, beautiful message: “Life brings rain, and when it does we need to keep moving onward. God brings fellowship to help us move forward through the storm.”
- Jealousy. Mmmm yes, I struggle with it from time to time. The comparison game is no game at all, but a slow, sad, slippery slope where there is no winning, no winning at all. I spent weeks praying against jealousy, so that I could be a better, more encouraging and supportive friend. And God got me through it.
The cool thing about being a Christian is that we don’t have to be perfect. Jesus did that for us. We get to live broken, and in community – Plus, we get the best blessing there is: We get to love. We get to love Jesus, and we get to love each other, despite our brokenness, because we all have it. Instead of hiding in a corner, and letting our fears and struggles consume us, let’s gather together on our knees, share our struggles, and pray for each other. Just as a football team works together to defeat the other team, we must pray together to defeat the darkness.
So I know I’ve been distant. Honestly, I hid in a corner for awhile as I felt like some of my struggles were too dark to share. But I’m back, raw and real, as I always claimed I’d write, hoping my words will help you feel less alone, as the words of my friend helped me feel less alone. I will join with my fellow Packers fans, ahem Christians, as we fight on our knees, in weakness, humility, and community. #NotTodaySatan
As I come to a close, there are two phrases that come to mind often when I consider life, community, and struggles. The first stated by the pastor of the church I used to attend in Kentucky – Jon Weece of Southland Christian Church, and the second, by a character in a beloved TV show – Cory Matthews of Girl Meets World. Each of them short, yet powerful, seem to explain a lot. They are important reminders as we journey on through this ever-challenging life together:
- Hurt people hurt people.
- People change people.
I guess, in a sense, I “evangelize” through the emptying of my emotions. It’s not the traditional way, but it’s personal and it’s effective. It’s like rooting for the Packers in a Vikings’ world. Don’t let the opposition stop you from sharing your struggles. Who knows, in doing so, you may bring the freedom of God’s love to a stranger, a friend, or even, yourself.