Once upon a time I was a missionary--of a sort. I worked as a writer for Campus Crusade For Christ's publication department. I wrote feature stories for their magazine, Worldwide Challenge, acted as a ghost writer for the superstars in the organization, and created copy for brochures and other newsletters. I basically wrote whatever my editor told me to. I got pretty good at it, honestly. I'd drive my little 1979 brown Camaro to the office and furiously type away on my electric typewriter (really, it was typewriters in those days). I actually missed my manual that I used all through college--wish I'd kept it now. But I wax nostalgic...
At one point, my assignment was to create a different, more pleasing name for what Campus Crusade described as aggressive evangelism. Bill Bright had a vision that everyone in the world hear the gospel of Jesus, so each staff member committed to a practice of regularly going out on the street or the beach and talking to people about Jesus. The higher ups didn't really like the word "aggressive," although our required evangelistic practices were certainly that, in my opinion. I never really came up with another better descriptor. About the best I could come up with was assertive. But that was lame. The assignment got dropped, and I think the powers that be stuck with aggressive.
If I had another opportunity to create an enhanced descriptor, I think I'd use the phrase "narrative evangelism." I was never very good at "aggressive evangelism." I dreaded going on those trips to the mall or the beach and approaching people in a wet bathing suit--those people relaxing on their towels. I'd timidly approach and ask, "Have you ever heard of the Four Spiritual Laws?" the tract limp and moist in my hand. I don't think anyone ever wanted to talk with me. I'm sure they could sense my introverted ways and discomfort as I stood before them dripping with saltwater and my own anxiety. And yet I would sometimes find myself in situations with people who lived in my apartment complex or talking to people at a party. Employment almost always came up amongst us twenty-somethings. When I told people what I did, they'd often ask how I ever ended up working for Campus Crusade. And that's when my narrative came up. How Jesus took a bedraggled mess of a person to higher ground. I'd tell them at age nineteen, my heart splintered into innumerable fragments--decimated with grief. It was then I lost contact with Giovanni. I became depressed, lost and didn't know what I'd do with my life. I felt so lonely that I began partying with my sorority crowd to try and find connection, but alcohol and sex couldn't bring me peace or intimacy or any of the things I so desperately wanted. A woman named Hope came to my sorority house and told her narrative that had similar characteristics of my story. She said knowing Jesus transformed her life and gave her a purpose. I wanted what she had. Her authenticity and bright countenance spoke to my frayed life. And she said that she got this restoration from a Savior that could be so incredibly dumbed down and ridiculed in our culture--a paradox that I bought into. I opened my life to Him and my heart healed, my narrative with Him initiated. I would say to those people in the apartment laundry room or eating chips at the party that working for Campus Crusade was a way for me tell of God's goodness. Writing for Campus Crusade became a vehicle for me to tell of His kindness. I told them that Jesus brought me rescue and hope and purpose. "That's why I work for them," I'd say. And I'd think to myself, "And why am willing to humilate myself on those mandatory outings to Laguna Beach." Often people listened to my story, no need for a tract, my life narrative the script.
We all who've embraced Jesus have a story--a narrative of what He's done for us. And He continues to be enthusiastically engaged with our stories, because the longer we live, our chapters unfurl in glorious detail. The other day I listened to Steely Dan on my headphones while walking. Donald Fagan wrote in his song New Frontier--"she has all the right dynamics for the new frontier." I thought about my life--how God gives me all this territory to own and explore as my story continues. It's like I stand on holy ground. He's given it to me, promised me His leading and protection, provision and favor--all the right dynamics. My job is to seize the promise, slip on shoes and explore my land, because I have everything I need for this new frontier, my narrative continuing to resound to others that He is good. He is good. There is no room for doubt that He is good.
He was never without a story when He spoke. When he was alone with his disciples, He went over everything, sorting out the tangles, untying the knots.~Mark 4:34 (The Message)