She was there with me in those difficult days when I thought Jesus and no one else could possibly love me. But God wove a golden strand through it all. Today, she battles cancer and now I seek to encourage her. Not that she needs it most days. Her first reaction to the C word was anticipation of how God might use her to draw others to Jesus. This is Debbie. For as long as I’ve known her, this is how she lives.
And yet I have a confession to make. In the past, her extroverted outreach sometimes left me cowering. I don’t have the gift of evangelism and found her ways sometimes overpowering. Sadly, this speaks more to my lack of passion for another’s salvation than a critique of her efforts. Because every conversation with Debbie is a party and a celebration of Jesus. And somehow the recipient feels like he or she is the noted guest rather than cornered prey. People are never her “project”.
I hold self so tightly much of the time that the Spirit has little chance of a spontaneous conversation with someone. Memories of being approached, trapped, and given the 3 minute Gospel elevator speech repel me. There is no question that people need Jesus or that I’m anxious to share this awesome news. But with most not recognizing or owning that need, I fear coming across like some crazy zealot. I long for that elusive Ethiopian eunuch to ask me to climb on board his chariot to explain the Scripture to him. I need an “invitation”. Not so with Debbie.
Whether in the chemo room as the toxic conquerer invades her veins or while chatting casually with the hospital chaplain, who, herself, left Debbie encouraged and moved to tears…always, I sense I am walking on holy ground.
As I’ve had the privilege of sharing bits of this difficult path with her, I’ve made some observations that I’ve found helpful for interacting with others.
- Debbie lives an expectant faith. She always expects God to act and sees Him in every casual life encounter. The truth is, she doesn’t settle for a small, distant God.
- Debbie loves people and truly sees God’s image in them. She recently described herself as a hummingbird flying from flower to flower, tapping into the nectar of each precious life. As I’ve observed her, it’s a brilliant depiction. Her love of each ‘flower” eventually disarms any defensive responses and God uses her infectious joy to everywhere “spread the fragrance of the knowledge of Him”.
- Debbie speaks to people as if they are already on her team, emphasizing the commonalities they share, rather than that which divides. She gets enough Gospel in each conversation so at its conclusion, the individual has heard it repeatedly and is nodding their head in agreement.
Many of us will never be a Debbie. Each of us, created in God’s image, reflect Him differently. While she loves to witness, I love to disciple. Maybe you love to teach? Or to serve? Maybe you love to give generously with your finances or have a heart for missions? Or perhaps you have a gift of administration or helps? As Frederick Buechner said, “The place God calls you to is the place where your deep gladness and the world’s deep hunger meet.”
Debbie has found that beautiful place.
Congratulations to my sweet friend Debbie who is ready to cross the finish line of her chemotherapy!