A few weeks ago I had lunch with Lucy. I don’t know Lucy well – I’d only met her once through a mutual friend at church. When we were first introduced she mentioned she had a great story to tell me, so when she emailed to invite me to lunch, I accepted. I was curious about her story.
As it turned out, Lucy told about 20 stories over lunch, one right after the other in a breathless rush as she leaned over her plate, hands gesticulating wildly. All her stories were about how God has spoken in her life, or moved her in a specific way or performed a particular miracle for her.
I hardly said a word during our hour-long lunch. We didn’t chat about our families or church or our jobs or even the blistering heat wave. We didn’t discuss which might be better, the chop salad or the curry chicken soup. Lucy talked about God. And I ate my sandwich, occasionally interjecting a “Huh,” or “Hmmmm,” or “Really?”
My lunch with Lucy wasn’t as much a conversation as it was a testimony.
I admire Lucy’s passion, her conviction. As I polished off my tuna melt and two glasses of iced tea, nodding my head as Lucy rattled through her stories, barely pausing for a forkful of chop salad, I marveled at her courage and her willingness to speak so freely and boldly about God’s impact on her life. And with me, a near-stranger, someone whom she’d only met once before as we stood with our donut holes and Styrofoam cups of coffee in the hallway at church.
But on the drive home, alone in the quiet of my mini-van, I couldn’t help but wonder: maybe this, maybe Lucy, is exactly where we Christians go wrong? Maybe we’re so busy talking, we don’t stop to listen.
Maybe we’re so busy telling our own stories, so eager to convict and covert, we don’t pause to hear anyone else’s story.
I know Lucy’s intentions were honest and good. She likely takes Jesus’ Great Commission – to “go and make disciples of all nations” (Matthew 28:19) – very seriously. She clearly feels called by God to tell her story in the hope of inspiring and convicting those around her, and she clearly believes this is an effective means to accomplish that.
Honestly, I can relate. I love to tell my stories, too. I write nearly every day about God and faith and how I try to live out that faith in the everyday. My goal is to inspire and convict, too. The thought of even one reader coming closer to God as the result of what they read on my blog is enough to keep my fingers on the keyboard.
But I suspect if Lucy talked to her co-worker or her neighbor or the bank teller in the same way she did to me, most of those people would clap their hands over their ears and sprint screaming for the hills. Or perhaps they’d do what I did at lunch: nod politely and scheme an appropriate time to make a get-away.
Lucy made the mistake a lot of Christians make: she forgot that we’re not all on the exact same spiritual page. She forgot that sometimes people simply want to be heard instead of talked at. Lucy made the same mistake I often do: she assumed that my story was the same as her own. And if it wasn’t the same, she assumed it should be.
I didn’t say much during my lunch with Lucy, but I did learn an important lesson that day over a tuna melt and iced tea. Sometimes the best way to tell a story is to listen to one instead.
…And another note…I’ve been thinking a lot about the assumptions we — I — make in our day-to-day living, and how those assumptions can hurt and alienate. Stay tuned over the next week or two for a couple more posts on this topic. I’ve got more to say!