If you come into Northampton fairly regularly, you've noticed various folks handing out flyers for all sorts of causes and events, or with clipboards in hand asking if they can have a "minute of your time." For the last number of months, Planned Parenthood volunteers have been doing that very thing.
They're usually young, friendly, trained in how to have such a conversation, and supportive of the cause they're representing. I've never heard one get into an argument with anyone while engaging the person. Their purpose is not to debate; it's to get support for the cause.
On Sunday after church, I ventured out to help Tricia carry her bags to the car so she could spend an overnight in Farmington caring for her mother. As I walked out our front door a young man in front of the light post on the corner asked if he could talk to me about something? I said, in passing him, I wasn't interested and went to the car. I did make brief eye contact though.
When I returned shortly after, we looked at each other, and he asked in a pleasant way how I was doing? I said I was well and returned the question. He was well also. Then, he asked if he could talk with me. I walked toward him and he asked if I knew of Planned Parenthood. I asked for his name and he told me. I told him mine and shook his hand.
Almost immediately, I said I don't support the work of Planned Parenthood, especially when it involves abortion. I explained I'd never supported it even in the 60's when I first became aware of it. He quickly responded something like, with all the unwanted pregnancies of young girls, couldn't I see that it helped them before they were ready to be a mother. I said with no rancor, I'm a follower of Jesus and because I am, I see every person as having a soul loved by God, including the unborn child. God loves them. They, and then I looked him in the eye, and you, have more value to him than any of us can imagine. So, I could never support the aborting of these children.
I added, I know you believe in what you're representing, but I just as much believe what I hold to be true. With that we looked at other. He smiled and nodded. We shook hands and I went back into the building.
By the way, no voices were raised.
I write about this because, it has been many, many years since I would say something like that publicly. I'm an introvert tending to listen to others in public and only ask simple questions, if I know them. But on my early morning prayerwalks I've been asking God to speak healing into those parts of me which irrationally hold back my voice, especially in public situations as I encountered. And he's gradually doing it! It's amazing to me.
Along with slowly healing my voice, I want, and are praying for a gracious, gentle fierceness to open the Gospel to people who don't "see" Jesus. That's what I came for, but its been a struggle which seems to be loosening its hold on me because of God's grace and healing. I want to engage more questions of faith and life with strangers and friends who don't profess Christ. Such conversations are life and truth.
I recently read of someone who was not a Christian complain about Christians that if they really believed what Jesus said, who he was, and what he did, they would courageously and sacrificially live their lives publicly as if it was true and not be silent about it with anyone. The opposite,"covert" Christianity which I practiced by default is pleasant and respectable to insiders, irrelevant to outsiders, but sheer impotence for Kingdom mission. It's spiritual lunacy if Jesus is really Jesus and wasn't kidding when he said he is "the way the truth and the life" so his followers are to: "go and make disciples, teaching them to obey what I commanded you." He said he'd be with us as we go.
I'm grateful for the gradual freeing "vocal" training I'm getting. I hope it doesn't stop. Just this morning, I told Tricia I want to see the Kingdom manifest with the same salvific power as it did in the New Testament era, and it does now more often in Asia, Africa, the Middle East and South America. I know such Kingdom life can be costly if actually embraced, but authenticity comes with sacrifice in the Way of Christ. Kingdom authenticity is worth it if we get to see how the Kingdom actually works in freeing the captives, giving sight to the blind, and proclaiming the year of the Lord's favor.
By the way, when I was speaking to the young man in Sunday it felt spiritually as if the Holy Spirit was aiming right at his heart, almost as a plea or invitation, but with authority.