I saw him on my neighbor's porch, knocking at the door, so I quietly tiptoed to my own front door and locked it, and tried to make myself small in the back room. Later, when I thought the coast was clear, I ventured out on the porch swing to read, and wouldn't you know, he was making a second pass on the street, this time from the other direction, clipboard in hand, and donning an Earth Day-green shirt. Though I hid the best I could behind the cherry tree boughs, he spotted me and said, "Do you have a minute?"
It was the worst of timing, or the best of timing, depending on how you look at it. I was just reading a book by Bill Johnson, a pastor from Redding, Calif., in which he was saying that the boldness of faith always means taking risks. I wasn't up for taking risks---even the risk of being rejected by Green Shirt.
In When Heaven Invades Earth, Johnson named all my reasons for not wanting to talk to strangers: One is not caring that the world is going to hell. Another is feeling that I really need to become a better Christian before God can use me. Johnson wrote, "That single lie has kept us in perpetual immaturity because it protects us from the power-encounter that transforms us." He asked probingly, "Doesn't it honor Him more when his children no longer see themselves only as sinners saved by grace, but now as heirs of God?"
Even if I don't care enough, and I'm not good enough, and I don't know how to, Johnson thinks I should live risky to bring Jesus to people who wash up on my porch:
"Some [risks] will come to light as steps of foolishness and presumption. But they must be taken just the same. How else can we learn? . . . The local steelhead fishermen say, 'If you don't get your rig snagged on the bottom of the river now and then you're not fishing deep enough.'"
So there he is, this young man rocking on the porch swing next to me, in all his facticity, this young ambassador from the "League of Conservation Voters." And here I am, this middle-aged ambassador from heaven. He was sweaty so I gave him a cup of cold water, and I listened to his speech but said no thank you to a monthly newsletter. "If you ever want to study the Bible with me, though, let me know." And walking away, he looked me square in the eye and said, "I might take you up on that."
It wasn't great heroism on my part after all, not enough to snag tackle. But it was at least getting my line in the water.
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