Wednesday, July 26, 2006


So I'm walking down the street today, from my office to the bank for some mundane transaction, and it's sunny and I'm in my own little world. I'm walking the back path behind the Millenium Library, there's construction off to my left, I'm shamfully avoiding eyecontact with street people that I've had a run-in with in the past, and someone in big sunglasses goes by. It's a nice walk.

And then I turned. I know that face, I recognize that backpack. I know who it is on the bike and I really want to talk to them. But I just keep walking. I don't think they saw me, and they just kept going, so I just keep going. But I'm thinking, Man, I wish I wouldn't do that. I want to call his name, but I don't. I'm embarrassed. How many times have I done that, only to have it be the wrong person (note: This is not a true thought--it rarely happens--but it is what I was thinking). So I'm still going, still wishing I wasn't, still looking over my shoulder. It was the weirdest thing.

Then I'm running. I'm running, trying to catch up. He's a bike, for Pete's sake, but I'm chasing him down. I think I saw him look back, and that's enough for me. I'm in a big hurry to get to the bank and back, but here I am running down the path like an idiot. Maybe the light is red, I think. I round the corner, and he's gone. Then he's back. He too had turned around on his bike, presumably to check and see if it was really me.

And we both stop and we chat, and it's great to see him. He went to college with Janie and me, and now lives here in the city. He asks me how I'm doing and I tell him. I ask him how he's doing and he tells me. I tell him about sleepless nights and baby showers. He tells me about a recent summer job that fell through and about going to school. I ask him where he's going to church, and he tells me he doesn't. He says that he hasn't had faith in a number of years.

What was funny was that I didn't really know how to respond, because I felt suddenly awkward, but at the exact same time I wasn't really that shocked. Now, don't get me wrong. I never would have assumed that this guy would ever have left the Church. No way. It's not that. I just thought immediately about how difficult my own faith has been these last few years. I thought about how just about everyone has a faith struggle in their 20's. It's textbook (which is not to say that it's at all easy).

My very first response was, Do I have a preofesssional obligation to try and "win him back?" But thankfully my next response was a very godly "Screw that!" I felt that nither my job nor my faith demand that I make people feel judged or rejected. And so we just talked. I did my best simply to listen, and to accept him. I think that's what I would want in the situation. I felt funny, but I'm not sure why.

When we parted, we'd said we'd get together sometime. He said Don't feel awkward that I'm not a Christian anymore. I did feel awkward, but not for that reason. I was in awe that he was so bold, so blunt and so honest. I felt that I, in contrast, am so typically reserved and distant. I felt awkward because I always do around people (most people, not all). But did I feel awkward about the whole faith thing? I dunno. Maybe. Maybe not.

Either way, I was very thankful that I'm not as "narrow minded" as I used to be, and that his decision did not "offend" me, as it would have in years gone by. Also, I was thankful for my faith and the strength that it offers me which has so often carried me through rough times.

So the question is, Do you pray for someone who probably doesn't want you to? Who probably knows that you will be, and potentially could resent that? I did, and I could have felt awkard about it. But I didn' t want to.



Lori said...

So interesting Dave. You know, I have a friend who I used to have a great trusting Christian relationship with. She was a passionate person, and her passion was mostly only for God. This was between my 1st and 2nd year of college, my "year off". When I went to Prov, we didn't keep in touch, and my attempts to email and stuff weren't met by her. Finally in my final year she came out and told me she'd become a non-Christian. Man, it hit me hard. I was hurt. I felt that all our times together were a farce because she didn't believe it anymore. Since then I've emailed her a few times, and seen her a few times. And it's awkward. I really is. But I think she still knows I still love her as a person, and I'm interested in her life and she in mine. It's just awkward. I feel like a fool if I try to be so nice, and a fool if I don't. Yeah, we're both still human, and able to have a friendship. But my relationship with God means something to me, even if I don't have the closest or best relationship with Him. But my friend and I now no longer have that connection which was our main connection before she decided to move in the other direction. Awkward. And YES, YES, YES, YES, you should pray for that guy! So what if he wouldn't want you to. Prayer is our connection with God that can affect things beyond our own control. Someday that guy might thank you for praying when he didn't want you to!
Way to go for following him and catching up with him though! i'd have loved to see you chasing him :)

Sue said...

were your arms flailing as you ran?? that would be classic.

i am glad you caught your friend. sometimes i think people just need that connection, that touch of someone that still holds to the faith that they themselves lost. I too had a very good friend and mentor that now considers her 'christian' years a farce. it does hurt, because those were the times we were close,then i moved away and things changed, i came back and they were very different. the person that loved and cared for me then was telling me that part of her life was all fake.....

i love her deeply, and pray for her whenever my heart aches in the pain of knowing that she has chosen the perilous path of denying God.

But it is the godly people close to her (distance wise) that have kept her conversations fresh with know?? I know they talk about God, Church, and past pains...i truly think that God is using those people as the "chance to come back" to know?? that could be you. wow. that's cool. :)

JAnie & DAve said...

When dave told me this the other day i thought "wow, i don't think i could ever ever stop believing in god" Maybe i could stop trusting him and following Jesus, but i think it is so a part of me, knowing that he exists, that i could never deny his existence. We were trying to give a word to this thought, and we are pretty sure that it would be agnostic, a person who admits that there is a god, but believes that this god has nothing whatso ever to do with the earth and the people on it. Atheists, on the other hand believe that there isn't a god. I could not ever possibly imagine actually not thinking there was a god. I have been wondering if this person's quality of life has changed... if it has stayed the same, gotten better, or been really bad since not believing anymore. Hmmm. I think i would have been tempted to ask, but that probably would have been rude.
Anyway, i too think dave should pray for this person. it isn't really up to anyone what we say to god in our heads. Heck, sometimes it isn't even up to us what we say to him.
Well, thanks for sharing your thoughts everyone, take it easy,

Sarah said...

just a minor thing; Janie, i think the word you're looking for is maybe deist... an agnostic is one who admits that there MAY be a god of some kind, but who is unwilling to leap into certainty for various reasons. these reasons are sometimes rooted in philosophy, and sometimes they are rooted in laziness. if you take the greek derivative for the word itself it means 'without knowledge'.


Anyway... I dunno. If it were me, and it has been me before, i wouldn't want people praying for me just because of the mindset. it made me feel like they didn't care about me as much or love me the same way because i had lost faith. i know that's not the case but that's just how i felt. and it's really easy for someone to feel like they've become someone's mission field, which is a sucky feeling too. but i know that you will both love this person just the same and be genuine awesome people to him, because you are just awesome people. if i were a non christian, i think i'd be pretty cool with hanging out with christians like you.

JAnie & DAve said...

High praise, Sarah. Thank you.

And I think that is what Janie was trying to say with the whole Agnostic thing. At least that's what I hear her saying.

Hmmmm... I think I understand the word to describe someone who doesn't believe that knowledg/unstanding about life, death & deity is attainable by us, thus why bother going on about it. It also seems to be a catch-all statement for people who simply haven't developed a faith system.

Is my friend an agnostic? I don't know.

I also really want to hear what you were saying about not making them a "mission", because who wants to be treated that way?


Sarah said...

Dave, you're most welcome. And yeah, you articulated agnosticism quite well there yourself; better than me, anyway. ;)

After giving this more thought, I think that following what I said about attitude and mindset, I wouldn't mind people praying for me if I were confident that they were praying that I would be in a state of wellness, however God would choose to provide or furnish that wellness. That was also very poorly articulated but it's the best I can do for now. Cheers from Amsterdam; I'll see you guys in ten days or so.