The Scariest Kind of Christian
I had come to town like a gentle breeze, and Jane came in like a whirlwind. I was new, but she was newer.
I was slowly recovering from illness while building friendships, organizing small gatherings, and inviting people to my MOPS group at church. Then there was Jane, all of a sudden everywhere, bubbling, full of joy, planning community wide playdates, making friends, and inviting people to her Mormon church.
Jane was great, but I was tentative and nervous to be with her because of our differing theology. I was uncomfortable, but still I came, I prayed, and I engaged with her and the community she was building.
I wanted to teach Jane. I wanted her to be saved, to come to my church, to be a Protestant Christian.
I wanted her to be like me or to have her shut down.
The hard thing about Jane was that she was a lot like me when I was healthy She was me, but much better. She was Randa 2.0. She was drawing people to her church as I sat nearby, desperate and longing to draw people to mine.
Turns out, thinly veiled envy and jealousy toward Jane were building up in me. I didn’t see what was going on until a crazy thing happened: Jane called me out on how I was treating her.
I had made a sarcastic joke in reference to her during the course of our conversation (a staple part of my joke wheelhouse). It had offended her, so in public, at a park, at one of the play dates she had organized, she asked: Why would I cut her down? Why would I hurt her?
I was offended, upset, and had an arsenal of sarcastic jokes to send back in response to her questions. Thank God I kept my mouth shut.
After I whined to a few obliging friends, I realized I was wrong, and the truth of my envy and bitterness came bubbling up to the surface.
I didn’t really care for Jane, and not because she was a jerk or a terrible person, but because she was a better, more energetic version of what I longed to be. And she was doing it as a Mormon. I could have forgiven all the other “transgressions” if they had not been painfully gifted to someone with a theology that differed from my own.
THE SCARIEST KIND OF CHRISTIAN
After confessing my sin to Jesus and apologizing to Jane, we genuinely became friends. It was hard for me to reconcile our differences, but I kept meeting with her and she was constantly like sandpaper on my soul, rubbing at rough edges I hadn’t known were there.
One day, we were sitting and watching our kids play in the driveway. We were talking about our beliefs and she looked at me earnestly in the face and said, “Randa, as a Mormon, I’m not scared of people who don’t believe in anything, and I’m not scared of people with other faiths. I’m scared of people like you.”
I was in shock. I was a pious, conservative Christian, only 5’4”, and barely able to maintain an appropriate adult weight. I was a petite, white-haired, stay-at-home-mom who couldn’t work a full day without becoming ill. I was supposed to be a believer in and follower of a Jesus of grace and love.
Why was she scared of me?
She went on to explain that I was the scariest type, even among Christians.
What was missing? I went home and prayed and wondered if she was right. I had made so many strides toward a life of grace in the Spirit in the last few years, but maybe, just maybe, my evangelistic self hadn’t come along.
My sweet, better-than-me, Mormon friend Jane, could see what I couldn’t see and what my Christian friends couldn’t see, and what they would likely never be exposed to in the way Jane had been. Jane had seen my well-meaning, scary Christian evangelism style. She saw and she had dared to tell me.
I was scary. I secretly sat (completely unaware) on my Christian throne, delving out judgements about sins and beliefs, and ruling those around me with an heir of superiority. How and when did I anoint myself judge, jury, and savior of all people?
I saw it all. I went from blind to seeing myself as I really was, and it was horrifying. I wasn’t ministering to her and teaching her; she was teaching me.
I painfully slipped off my newly discovered throne and left my scepter and robe behind. I humbly slunk back to her house for the next play date, ready to learn.
I stopped giving answers and started asking questions. I began to understand Jane’s upbringing, her family, and her theology. I read articles about her beliefs and then went back and asked her if I understood them correctly. I asked her about who she was, and she, in turn, asked me about who I was.
Over time, Jane began asking me questions about Old Testament prophets, because really, a little Bible-loving girl from the Midwest might be the best person to learn about the Bible from if that girl can stop beating with it and start loving, right?
We mutually grew and journeyed together. We began to understand ourselves, our faith, and one another more fully. Every time we met, I was challenged by her thoughts and questions. She couldn’t help it. She could see so many rough places in me no one else had seen.
Sometimes I joked to my husband that we were both trying to “convert” the other, and there’s a pretty good chance it was on both of our minds, but that’s not what happened.
This part of the story would have been hard for “Randa before she met Jane.”
Jane didn’t become a Protestant Christian. She didn’t start going to my church. We didn’t join a Bible study together, and she didn’t get baptized in the lake that summer. Jane is still a Mormon.
Jane, however, taught me how to truly live life with someone I disagreed with about fundamental theological issues. Jane taught me how to live outwardly. Jane taught me that I had some pretty ugly and old ideas about how to interact with people that thought differently from me.
I don’t know how to qualify the experience I had with Jane, and now I don’t have to because I gave up the judge’s chair. What I do know is that after conviction and repentance, I learned to truly live and share the grace and love of Jesus with everyone I encountered in a way I hadn’t understood before. That feels like real evangelism.
My conviction in the importance of the truth of the Bible has not changed. Instead what has shifted is my stance when approaching the way I share the love of Jesus with people who differ from me.
I don’t know if I taught Jane anything, but she changed my life, and I will forever remember her as one of my hardest, most difficult, and truest friends.
“For too long, evangelism has been a one way performance, soliloquy, delivered from an elevated platform by an actor hoping for applause. But Jesus shows us how to bring good news, relationally, as a mutual movement towards beauty and intimate invitation to dance.”
-Pete Greig, Dirty Glory
Randa Smith has had a deep love of Jesus ever since she can remember. From the time she was young she has used writing as a means to sort out her faith and pursuit of freedom in Christ. Randa also loves decorating and repurposing things to give them new life. She spends the rest of her free time with her family and friends, shopping, drinking lattes and putting in as little effort as possible to stay mildly fit. She is thankful that she gets to do all these activities and more with her husband and kids together where they share memories of living life with amazing people from Iowa, to Kansas, to Indiana.