MY FRIEND MANDI AND I SHOWED UP at the mall the other day to share the Gospel. Neither of us really wanted to. For one, we were tired. We also, strangely, had both felt mediocre at the PC staff worship service earlier that afternoon. (Myself, I would have gladly rather napped than forced my mouth to sing; my mood was sour.) And we only had a little hour-and-a-half window of time before we had to be back at camp for some Forge event.
So not much rest, nor much happiness. And so Mandi suggested we pray, which we did, eyes open at our little food court table so we didn’t look weird to the rest of the self-respecting citizen shoppers at Broadway Square. And then we went to share Christ, after agreeing to meet back up at 5:30.
Mandi sat next to a nice lady waiting at a couch. I decided to wander off to strike up a conversation in the mall bookstore. Looking at the directory, I found that Tyler must hate culture and the arts, because they didn’t have one. (Well, that may have been due to the gi-normous Barnes and Noble directly across the parking lot. Maybe.)
So I did the next best thing and went to the CD/video shop. I figured I’d start looking at bands and CD’s I liked, and maybe I’d run into someone looking at similar stuff and we’d naturally branch a convo from there. It would be a great plan.
There was a guy at the Rap section when I walked in who I wanted to talk to, but then I figured owning a limited selection of Kanye West, plus one T.I. song, wasn’t enough background for me to fake mutual musical interest. So I swung into Pop/Rock territory. There, I encountered nary a soul, but did watch the evolution of Destiny’s Child over five album covers as I flipped through the racks. Did you know they started with four members? Beyonce was the head diva even back then, I think.
At that point, our friend Stephen showed up. He had agreed to meet us at the mall earlier, but apparently ran a little late. He and I then took off to the clothing stores, hoping for convo opportunities there. We found that we couldn’t tell if PacSun’s featured skinny pants were meant for boys or girls. This was not a good sign, being a little keen on skinnys myself.
Then we went to Journeys. I was disappointed to find that on the day I decide to trade up, a replacement pair of Chuck Taylors will be nearly fifty bucks. Stephen and I were elated, however, to see a sweet V-neck with the face of the Savior screened on the front. Twenty-five bucks.
As we left, I realized that we had been dorking around for forty-five minutes, with no sharing of the Gospel. And I wondered why that was so hard for us, to just strike up a conversation about Christ.
YOU SEE, LIKE I POSTED LAST WEEK, a relative stranger declared my spiritual death in front of the majority of my peers. Ruminating on his pronouncement, I realized that I was guilty of making Jesus important, but not exclusively important. I was cognizant of Him, seeking Him to a good degree, but in the sense that I would have devotional time, or read Scripture, then go off to operate on my own devices, hoping I was sticking by what He said in Scripture. I was not practicing His presence; I was not living or moving or having my being in Him.
So this past week, I’ve been trying to practice an awareness and sensitivity to God’s presence moment-by-moment. It’s helped. But I’ve also still felt pretty freaking heavy at times, like the Lord is incensed with me and won’t let off. It’s been pretty uncomfortable.
For whatever reason though, things finally snapped into place at that mall— the pieces shook loose and despite my grumpy and reticent attitude, I realized I am actually in God’s presence at all times. I’m not sure why it finally happened. All I know is that, pretty suddenly, it made sense.
I was pretty sure I could be at the Forge, or at home, or with the Baylor bros or at my old church. But even in front of the CD rack! Even looking at skinny jeans. Even while listening to Taylor Swift (I am confessing this in print and not hoping for absolution). His reality was and IS accessible and valid and just simply there–
And thus, sharing the Gospel didn’t have to be something I forced. If I was communing with God, He’d be faithful to move me wherever He was working, and a conversation about Him would naturally spring forth. I really didn’t need a tactic. I needed to be in touch with His spiritual reality in the middle of a very material one.
Eventually, all three of us at the mall got to talk with people about Jesus. Tyler being a Bible Belt town, we hit up more Christians than not, but reminding a Christian of the Gospel is just as necessary as introducing a spiritually dead person to it. I myself worked my broken Spanish into a Tarzan-like conversation with a man from Mexico by way of Longview. When asking what religion he followed (really, what religion he “was,” which is really bad grammar), he told me he was Catholic and wasn’t interested in changing. I told him I didn’t think he should, as long as he believed Jesus was God’s son and the savior for our sins. I’ll count that as Gospel.
Our time limit reached, Stephen, Mandi and I left in higher spirits. We totally didn’t feel it as we started, but as we went to be faithful, we saw God show up in our conversations. And realizing that not only was God always present and I could always be mindful of Him (even at the mall), but I then realized that I need to get my butt away from Pine Cove and into the presence of “sinful men” way more often. I’m being poured into a lot as it is.
And to be faithful and dependent and to pour back out?
That sounds like a good way to be real while in a “real world” that will pass away. Because His reality underlies and outlasts it all.
And He’s real and He’s present and He’s alive forever and ever andeveramen…