While sitting in an airport lounge that had become crowded because of all the flight delays caused by a sudden storm, I couldn’t help but overhear bits and pieces of conversations around me. Two business women in their twenties were sitting in the seats next to me with their laptops, file folders, and briefcases. They talked about a business session that they had recently completed while intermittently trying to contact spouses or family about the changed flight schedules, missed connections, and late arrivals. As time passed and the weather intensified, more flights were cancelled or delayed, and people were becoming more frantic in their attempts to rearrange personal plans.
One of the women near me became increasingly concerned by her failed attempts to reach someone she was trying to call. Finally, she shared with her colleague that she was supposed to get home in time to make one hundred sandwiches tonight to take to a soup kitchen, and she was trying to reach the program director to let her know she was delayed. The sandwiches are given out at lunch with hot soup for homeless families at a shelter. She does this twice a month as part of a project with her church.
Her friend asked her why she was so worried. “Won’t it be OK to miss it this one time?”
“This is important to me, and I made a commitment, and so I’ve got to hold up my part or find someone else to take my place. Besides,” she said, “we just can’t know what it’s like to be hungry, to be really hungry and vulnerable and not know where the next meal is coming from. They’re depending on me.”
There was a long quiet pause. Then the second woman said, “If you ever need help with that, let me know.”
The first woman’s face lit up, “That would be so cool. You’ll be amazed. It’s a whole different world. I’d love showing you how it works.”
Conversion is an intimidating term weighted down with so much baggage that sometimes we overlook how small and incidental a first step toward faith might appear. What happened between these two colleagues was a slight turning toward God, the new opening of heart and mind toward serving others, which is an essential quality of the spiritual journey. Personal witness, simply expressed, stimulates first steps.
As we deepen and repeat the practices of fruitful living, colleagues and friends see us mature and grow. They catch a sense of the trajectory of our life, the priorities that guide us. They see us growing in Christ. Our beliefs take visible expression, and we become “doers” of the word and not “hearers” only. Faith becomes real to them as it becomes real for us. Our life becomes a catalyst for others, and we give them courage to try it, to take the first steps, to explore the interior life and the community of Christ.
The woman above offered a simple description of something that matters to her. Her language is natural, personal, and yet unapologetically invitational in tone. She does not insist or argue nor even speak explicitly of faith at this point. In effect, she lets someone look over her shoulder to see what she is working on. Her practice of openness to God extends into a ready receptivity toward others, a posture of welcome and encouragement.
The Gospel of John opens with profound philosophical expressions: the eternal Word becomes flesh and dwells among us, the Light shines into the darkness, and “from his fullness, we have all received grace upon grace.” (John 1: 16) The high theological rhetoric moves quickly down to earth with specific stories about people. By the end of the first chapter, Jesus forms disciples, and then disciples invite other followers one after another, all of them repeating a simple refrain, “Come and see.” The joyful imperative of inviting others begins the gospel, and this is John’s way to emphasize the essential quality of witness. It’s as simple as, “Here’s what I have found. Come and see.”
Yours in Christ,