The Woman in the Elevator

I believed in Jesus in a life changing way in high school. Hearing the good news of Christ many times and seeing Him at work in family and friends’ lives were the means He used to bring me to faith.  For the first time I began to read the Scriptures because I wanted to. Stories of Paul traveling and sharing the good news of Christ  captured my attention immediately.

Many people in my community had heard the message of Jesus their entire lives, just like me, but had not yet believed.  I wasn’t exactly sure how to go about sharing my faith with them, but tried anyway. The only ways I knew were telling people my own story and handing out little booklets I found in a church. The booklets were called gospel tracts and they explained how to know Jesus. I didn’t know how to explain that at all, so I chose to give out booklets most of the time. Not a bad thing, but distributing information was not what I needed to learn.

(The issue was not whether I should pass out gospel tracts or share Jesus in another way. The issue was that the motivations of my heart were fear, guilt, and passion without wisdom, instead of trust in God.)

During my normal schedule of school, working at Walmart®, and extra curricular activiites, I tried to talk to people about Christ. Sometimes it went well and sometimes I had no idea what to say. Because of my enthusiasm and youth, I somehow started feeling that rescuing the world from sin was all up to me. I would have never expressed it in that way, because it sounded absurd and I knew it. It’s an impossible task for a human.

But what was I to do with the knowledge that people needed to hear the gospel? What was sharing Jesus supposed to look like in my life? In my newfound faith, I was placing  pressure on myself to perform for God’s approval and trying to alleviate guilt, but I didn’t understand that. The impossible expectations for myself were only coming from me. I just thought I was trying to “do Christianity the right way.” Misguided zeal.

Thankfully, the events of one afternoon began changing my perspective. It was one of my first learning experiences in being in relationship with Christ instead of simply doing Christian things. It was an eye opener in putting others before myself and my agenda.

My parents were visiting someone in the hospital and I went along. Sitting in the waiting room I finished my homework and, while I was putting it away, found some gospel tracts in my backpack. Why not use my extra time to put these booklets in every waiting room in the hospital? Finishing math homework had been boring, but this was something I could be enthusiastic about. Finally, a worthwhile project for me. After all, people go through serious stuff in hospitals and could probably use some hope. I felt like I was really doing something great. How could I hit as many waiting rooms as possible with my valuable information? I couldn’t wait to tell my Christian friends in youth group about the great Christian stuff I was doing. A way to feel that I had worth to God and others. How exciting! For me.

(Yes, the “I’s” and “me’s” are italicized to make a point 🙂 ).

And then something happened– something to show me I wasn’t truly interested in God or people, but in the good feeling I got from checking off a religious “to do” list.

I decided to use the elevator.

This would help me reach all the waiting rooms quickly before I had to meet my parents in the ground floor lobby.

The elevator stopped unexpectedly on the third floor, delaying my “super important ministry effort” so that someone else could get in. There wasn’t much time left before I had to meet my parents. I had only hit one set of waiting rooms and was frustrated at the “delay” until I stopped to notice who was right in front of me.

A woman, eyes fixed on the floor in shame, face soaked in tears. Her sleeves were too short to cover her arms, but she tried anyway when she noticed me in the elevator.  She wanted to hide cuts and stitches. There were so many of them. But probably not from an accident. The cuts looked deliberate; patterned. Some were old and had faded into scars, but closer to her wrists there were newer ones with bandages and stitches that could not have been there more than a few days.

What happened to her? Did she do this to herself? What help did she need? Was there someone to take care of her?

I felt frozen and had no idea what to do.

Suddenly, she raised her eyes and locked them on mine. I watched her tears. She watched my young, bewildered, concerned face.

My “special ministry agenda” didn’t matter anymore. She did.

Because of the intensity of the situation, the ride seemed a little longer than it was. I was completely at a loss for words, but she probably would not have wanted to talk with a sixteen-year old girl. She wanted to get out of there  fast and that’s what she did as soon as the doors opened.

I went back to sit in the lobby and think about what happened. My original agenda for the evening didn’t seem to matter anymore and my mind was churning with new thoughts. I could feel I was on the brink of understanding some new things about loving God and people. What would they be?

Until falling asleep that night, I spent most of my time praying for the woman I saw. Sometimes I still think of her.

©2018 Chrissy Winslow – All Rights Reserved

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This is the first time I’ve ever shared this story.  I have more thoughts for Part Two of this entry. Look for it next week.

Thanks for reading!

❤ , Chrissy

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What I like about this man’s story in the link below is the friendship he shared with his neighbor. He didn’t force anything, but was consistently and intentionally part of his friend’s life, trusting God to help the man believe:

https://www.desiringgod.org/articles/guilt-evangelism     

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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