By Dana Bowman
I’m standing in line at our local small town grocery store, humming listlessly along with a Muzak version of “Eye of the Tiger,” when I spy her. It’s my neighbor, the funny, sweet one with the curly-haired kid that my kid knows. She’s a mom, so we are in that tribe together. And she waves and smiles and brings her cart over, all full of organic veggies and healthy snacks, and I just want to hide.
I’ve made peace with the stress associated with trying to feed my children healthfully, so I had no mom guilt over her kale and baby carrots. I was terrified, however, because I needed to invite her to church.
This fall, our church is participating in the Alpha program. On Tuesday nights we get together, eat dinner, and talk, laugh, ask questions, and dig into the Word. One of Alpha’s main goals is to bring in those who are on the fringe when it comes to God. Sometimes we refer to these folks as the “unchurched,” which makes me wonder if these persons see us coming out of worship on Sunday and think, “Hey, look. Some ‘churched.’”
It is fairly possible that there are some of these types in our town. Someone might live right on my street who really wants to get to know Jesus, but feels a bit shy or fearful about walking into a church. I know this is possible because that’s exactly how I used to feel, long ago, before I learned about Christ’s heart and story. Once I finally ventured into a building where people knew his heart and worshipped him too, it was much easier to fall fully in love.
But now? Well, I really wish all these other fringe people would just get over their fears, and just get to a church on their own. Because I certainly don’t want to have to ask them.
When my pastor announced that we were hosting Alpha, I dutifully wrote down a list of names to pray over and invite. We were given postcards to hand out that explained Alpha, with times and dates and such. The postcards had a picture on the front of a friendly looking hipster guy, looking thoughtful. All very approachable. Very low key. Plus, I knew there would be a lot of desserts offered after dinner, all made from scratch by bunches of the grandmas in our congregation. Alpha was certainly not a fearful situation.
And then we left church that day and my husband went right out and asked his unchurched people. He might have texted them about Alpha on the ride home. He even went above and beyond and asked more people than were on his original list! He was all, “I’m going to ask every single person I see to come to Alpha without even batting an eye! This is fun!”
I promptly forgot my list and set my postcards next to the bowl of keys by the door and never gave out a single one. Not. One. Hipster. Postcard.
I failed the Alpha test. I failed the “reach out to others” exhortation that my pastor spoke to us Sunday after Sunday. I failed because I am terrible at explaining to others why I love Jesus so much.
My idea of talking about Christ to others has become laden with expectations, most of which are about how I will look at the end of sharing time. None of this fits with Jesus’s main strategy: Love selflessly and with no fear.
I fear being mocked. I fear it more than getting run over by a car, or spiders, or even, aging. I hate the idea of being disrespected. I imagine that my words will be mangled into some goofy meme that goes viral, as the ridiculous Jesus freak. It has happened, you know.
I am a Christian who is also in recovery. I have written a new book about my experience. I have been very “out and open” about all this recovery business with the church and with my friends. The public has been more than gracious. They have commended me for my honesty and my willingness to write about a difficult topic. But now I realize, as laudable as all this might seem, the cold fact is I’m more afraid to tell my friend at the grocery store that I’m a Christian than that I’m a recovering alcoholic.
I never asked my friend to Alpha.
I’m more afraid to tell my friend at the grocery store that I’m a Christian than that I’m a recovering alcoholic.
As I unpacked my cart, we started discussing how “Eye of the Tiger” is almost hypnotic in Muzak form, I wimped out. “Eye of the Tiger” should have provided me with the guts, but the Muzak version did not inspire. I couldn’t frame my words to my neighbor as perfectly as I would have liked, and, alas, I had no hipster post card.
These are all excuses, I know, but I am still stubborn and fearful. At this point, however, I have made progress. I moved the Alpha postcards from the table to my purse. Perhaps I will get the game face on, and ask her. By the time I work up the courage, Alpha might be over.
But as I keep having to learn, it’s one step at a time. And Jesus will keep inviting me to take the next one.
About the author: Dana Bowman is a wife, mother, teacher, writer, and runner. She has been published in numerous magazines, and is the proud author at Momsieblog.com. Her book, Bottled: How to Survive Early Recovery, published by Central Recovery Press, is now available. One day, she hopes to master the skill of making sure all dessert apportionment is completely equal.