So a Jehovah’s Witness that has a striking, albeit less ominous, likeness to Ben Linus from Lost has been trying to chat with me for the past month.
He’s come by twice before and I found myself giving an internal high five when I had somewhat legitimate excuses to avoid engaging with him and his counterpart (they travel two by two). I find myself scared to write this and put it out to the world. I’m afraid everyone will think I’m a jerk that avoids people he’s uncomfortable around. More about that later.
Finally this past week he came when I didn’t have somewhere to be or dinner already served. I was face-to-face with a conversation I didn’t want to have. So what did I do? Did I invite him in, make a pot of coffee, and be an all-around nice guy? Sadly, no.
My fears and discomfort got the best of me. I explained that I’m a Christian, that I work in a church even. I let him know that despite all that I didn’t feel comfortable having the conversation, and asked that they stop coming around our house.
They looked a bit puzzled. Here I was explaining that I’m a “professional” Christian and then letting him know that I didn’t want to talk about God. Say what?
So now back to me being afraid everyone will think I’m a jerk. And that’s namely because I was a jerk. I indulged my fears of disagreeing with someone, of looking stupid if I didn’t know the “answer” to one of his questions, my insecurities about my own Bible knowledge, my insecurities about judgments he might have about megachurches, etc etc etc. I let them get the best of me and I pushed the two of them away to generate a false sense of my own safety. Yes that’s right, a false sense of safety.
Jesus didn’t push people away who disagreed with him. He welcomed and joined together with them in relationship. He got to know their stories and walked with them. Do you think Jesus indulged his fears of how he might look when he approached the Samaritan woman at the well? It was culturally unacceptable for a single man and woman to be talking – especially for a Jew to talk to a Samaritan. Then Jesus breaks even the social norms of today, confronting her on divorcing over and over and living with a man she’s not married to.
So after about 20 minutes of wallowing in guilt with my wife, Jaci, we decided we needed to make things right. We hadn’t been very good representations of Christlike people. I had heard of a Jehovah’s Witness church in the area so we looked it up and decided to pay them a visit. Our mission: apologize and come clean about how my reactivity and fear had gotten the best of me.
I thought I was scared to talk to them when they were at my front door. Imagine how I felt walking up to a church I’ve never been to, full of people who have a faith I know next to nothing about, and having no really good reason for being there other than saying “I’m sorry”. I felt sick to my stomach. I secretly wished the doors were locked and no one was there. As I pulled up to the full parking lot I felt a thick sense of discomfort.
I entered the church past the very unlocked doors and realized then and there that I didn’t even know the name of the man that came to my door. I found someone who looked like they were somewhat important and asked if they had a member who looked like Ben Linus from Lost. OK – not my best opener, but it would do. He hadn’t seen Lost so we just explained the situation to him and began explaining how my own insecurities had caused me to be unkind. This encounter didn’t have nearly the same impact or effect I had imagined it might have from the parking lot. How could I fully explain myself if I wasn’t face to face with the man I pushed away? I felt myself wanting to shout out “Can I get a witness?”
During our conversation, the man who looked like Ben Linus but was actually named Kevin appeared, apparently doing some cleaning at the church after a service had taken place. I got a chance to tell my side of things to Kevin. I explained that in an attempt at keeping myself safe I had done the opposite of what God wanted for us when He sent Jesus to the world. I put up a huge wall of stubborn defensiveness and I was at the church that afternoon to tear that wall down.
I had absolutely no clue how he would react. The ball was in his court. He could have blown me off and resoundingly agreed how much of a jerk I was. But he didn’t. He did exactly what he had left that afternoon desiring to do – he just had a conversation with me. He accepted my apology and we talked about how important it is for Christians to connect with other Christians, even if their beliefs don’t line up exactly.
I had really done myself a disservice when I allowed my fear to self-inflate until it was seemingly bigger than me. When I sucked it up and erred on the side of interaction and relationship, I found out that indulging my fears kept me out of a gratifying and nourishing interaction with another like-minded person just because I felt threatened. I found out that Kevin was another human being, just like me. He wasn’t out to get me and he had many of the exact same fears I had going into the situation.
I’ve done quite a bit of reflecting on the situation, and I’m seeing how much I let my own fears keep me from acting in certain ways. I don’t think that’s God’s plan for my life or yours. John reminds us that “perfect love drives out fear” (1 John 4:18). The love of God – the love we are called to reflect in this world – operates above and beyond our own fears and works to bring us together rather than drive us apart from one another.