While we were down in the Florida Keys for vacation last month, Brad and I stopped in at a roadside shack to pick up some snapper, shrimp and scallops to make fish stew for dinner. The owner of the operation, a rugged fisherman with weather-worn skin, startling blue eyes and a Cape Cod accent, struck up a conversation with us. We stood chatting in the parking lot for 15 minutes, Brad with a plastic bag of fish clutched in his hands. When the conversation turned to jobs, I told the fisherman and his wife that I was a writer. I left it at that, intentionally not mentioning that I am a very particular kind of writer. A Christian writer.
I tend to volunteer that specific detail only with certain audiences – with other Christians or with people I know won’t judge me or make inaccurate assumptions based on my job title. Even after three years of blogging about faith, I am reluctant to label myself as a Christian writer. I wonder, sometimes, what some of my old friends think – the people who have known me the longest; the people who knew me when I was, at best, an agnostic – a person who never mentioned God or the Bible. Ever. I wonder sometimes what they think when I post something about faith or spirituality on Facebook. Do they roll their eyes? Do they think, “Here she goes again.”
Jesus’ very first preaching gig was in his hometown of Nazareth, just after he emerged from his forty-day tussle with Satan in the wilderness. The townspeople weren’t expecting this from him. After all, until now, Jesus had been nothing more than a simple carpenter. In fact, when he first stood up in the synagogue, unrolled the scroll with Isaiah’s words, and spoke, the people were amazed. “How can this be?” they asked. “Isn’t this Joseph’s son?” (Luke 4:22)
Their incredulity quickly turned to dismay, though, when Jesus preached the second part of his message – a message they didn’t want to hear. In fact, they were so angry they attempted to drive Jesus out of Nazareth and push him over the cliff on the outskirts of town.
I suspect at that point I would have thrown in the towel. I suspect I would have deemed my first foray into preaching an abysmal failure and gone back to carpentry. But Jesus didn’t do that. Instead, he made his way to Capernaum, where he preached again and drove a demon out of a man for good measure. In the face of what seemed like utter failure, Jesus kept on – he kept focused on his mission, despite what looked like an obvious setback.
My story is a bit different than Jesus’. After all, he didn’t hesitate to share his message. He wasn’t afraid of being judged. But still, there’s a lesson for me here, too.
It seems I have two choices. I can regret the instances in which I’ve failed to rise to the occasion and state my faith with conviction. I can bemoan my weakness and lack of faith. Or I can move on, not looking back in regret and remorse, but ahead in anticipation of a new opportunity to share my faith.
The next time I hesitate to claim myself as a Christian writer, I can take a cue from Jesus. He knew the Nazarenes would not accept his message; he knew it wasn’t what they wanted to hear. But he said it anyway, with courage and conviction.
Do you ever hesitate to share your faith? Is it hard for you to convey a message you think people might not want to hear?
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