16 years ago, I wrote this in my journal:
I went to 1st Baptist Church of Bartlesville again. Another typical service and sermon, nothing special. Bible study was a mix of the new 7th graders through college. The speaker, who is only 24 years old, was awesome! I’ve never heard anyone speak so deeply about what it means to have an intimate relationship with God. He substituted for the regular college teacher, and man is he good.
He basically preached to us and slammed us on things like TV, fashions, and the love of money. He said everything we do brings glory to God or it doesn’t, and that someday God will ask us about all we did that didn’t glorify Him. We must be free from any sin in our hearts when we pray, and we need to give God more respect. That’s only a small taste of what he said. I was thinking I’d like to make friends with this guy, but he’s just a summer intern. Oh well.
I’ve decided to witness at work whenever I get the chance and it hasn’t gone very well. I asked Dana about her salvation and she said she was already saved. Then she got angry and told me that if I want to preach, then I should get a church. She said not to judge her and to leave her alone.
I shared the gospel with another “Bible-believing” woman that same day and I could hardly get a word out of her. She said that if she wanted to hear a sermon she’d go to church.
“Lord, I’m trying, but it’s so hard to deal with some people and it’s so hard to maintain my passion for you all day long. Please help me better glorify you.”
I guess I’ve been a lot more zealous ever since hearing that guy in Sunday school. Well, I need to start my prayer time. It’s already 7 and I work at 9.
— July 14th, 1999
Dear Former Self,
It sounds like you’ve found another Christian as legalistic as you are. If this substitute Sunday school teacher is really all about having an intimate relationship with God and staying away from everyday things like television and nice clothes, then maybe he’ll be your new best friend.
Spoiler alert: He won’t. When you try to get to know him, he’ll treat you as if you’re just another lukewarm Christian and tell you to pray and read the Bible more (as if you don’t do that!). Then he’ll brush you off. You’re going to be pretty annoyed with him for not recognizing that your Christian walk is fine the way it is.
The funny thing is, you’re getting a glimpse of how other people feel when you talk down to them. For example, when you tried witnessing to Dana she got really annoyed with you. But who could blame her? Given that she’s already a Christian, you must have come off sounding like a self-righteous jerk. No wonder she was annoyed.
Same goes for the other woman you witnessed to. She said she believes in God and the Bible, yet you spoke to her as if she’d never heard of Jesus before. It reminds me of a billboard I recently saw with the words, “Who is Jesus?” on it. Do they really think there are people in the Bible belt who haven’t heard of Jesus?
The last thing people want when they go to work is to have a coworker preach to them. You’re still young so your life is simple and easy, but chances are your older coworkers have all sorts of problems in their lives that you wouldn’t understand. Maybe rather than waste your time trying to proselytize people who are already Christians, you should try getting to know them instead. You might even make some real friends.
— Matt, July 14th, 2015
This is part of an ongoing series called Letters to My Former Self.