written by Lance Steinhibel
As much as I try to never think about the series of events which triggered my battle with faith and doubting God’s existence, it always comes back up. It’s hard to relive, but it also reminds me how much I grew during that time and what I learned as a result. It all started on what was going to be a normal Friday. It was payday so everyone at work was pretty pumped. Knowing that money was on the horizon always seemed to make the day fly by. I picked up my check and was heading out the door when I ran into a co-worker. He seemed down, so I asked him if everything was alright. His reply still haunts me to this day, “everything will be better in one hour.” If I had only known what would happen in an hour, I would have given anything to stop him. One hour later my friend took his life. When I heard the news, I was torn between anger and shock. I could not believe that someone with such joy in his life would do something like that. I replayed those 20 minutes at work over and over again in my mind, trying to figure out if I had missed something. Maybe I should have asked him one more time, or tried to find out what would be happening in one hour.
Because I do a lot of street ministry with Carry the Cross Ministries and Enoch Magazine, I began to question all the time that I was spending on the streets talking with people who I had never even met. I realized that I rarely took the time to look at my friends’ needs around me. I struggled with the guilt that I had never shared the love of Jesus with anyone close to me outside of the church. I don’t just mean by telling him about God with words, but by actually living it out in my actions. Everything I knew was being shaken and tossed around. I was torn over the fact that I seemed to care more about strangers than I cared about people that I actually knew.
As the funeral approached I spent most of my time questioning and rationalizing with God about what I would do, how I would act. I thought about what I would do if someone asked me about my faith. How would I react, what would I say? I started to get mad at God for the passion He had put in my life to reach out to those were hurting outside of the church – on the streets. People that I had never met in my life, or will ever meet again. Why had He not given me a passion for those that I do know? Would I have been able to talk to my friend? Would I have been able to help some of the others hurting now or who would be hurting at the funeral? Would anyone even listen to me if I tried to comfort one of them? I got so caught up with the fact that God was not giving me a clear message that I told Him, “I would never share ‘you’ with anyone ever again.” All I could think about was how He let this happen, when I was in his life and able to be there for him.
The funeral came and I kept my word that I would not talk to anyone about God. I could see all the pain in their eyes and I started to see them differently. I had never looked at them like that before. I was seeing them from the point of view of someone who actually cared for them. Yet I chose to back off. I remember going out with a few people for a drink after the funeral. As we sat there trying to think of anything except the last week of our lives, someone asked me a question that caught me off guard. He said, “Lance, you’re someone that believes in God, why do you think things like this happen? How do you move forward?” I couldn’t see how to dodge this one. I’m not even entirely sure how I responded to his question, but what stands out in my mind was what I learned in that moment. We all have people in our lives that we know we can count on to be there for us. As those who believe in Jesus, we are called to open that list up to include everyone that we meet. But it seems that the wider we open it, the harder it is to focus on the ones in our daily lives. If we lose sight of them, we miss out on the ones that truly have an impact on us. Somehow in my quest to go out and reach the lost and hurting I had forgotten to look at the people that I affect on a day to day basis. I was blown away at how clear this was now.
Part of me feels that the church is partly to blame for this; it seems we are so quick to praise the “missionaries,” and not look to those serving in their work place, or neighborhoods. I believe that work of a missionary is an amazing calling in someone’s life, but we must remember that it is not always necessary to go somewhere else to serve. It is just as important to be at work in your hometown with the people that surround you and that is something that every single one of us is called to do. We have an influence on those around us, whether we mean to or not; might as well be intentional about it. It seems that when we try to reach out to those we don’t know, there is not really a fear of judgment. But when you talk to someone who is a fixed component in your life, they know who you are. They know about the parties, the lies, the good and the bad. They know how you live your life. If we truly want to reach out to those we know in our day to day lives, I believe it has to start with actions, (not just words). I believe we must begin to learn how to live a life that glorifies God, but at the same time does not separate us from the world.
Some of the best times I’ve had talking with friends about life was when I took the time to meet them where they are…LITERALLY. I know that some Christians get freaked out if you talk about going to a bar. But when I sat down with my friend after the funeral and talked over a beer, he opened up and saw me as a real person, as someone he could relate to. If we truly want to impact those around us, we must be available and have a heart for them. I didn’t have a heart for my friends for the longest time. It is easy to forget about that calling in our lives. When we do, we take friendship for granted and we lose sight of what it truly means to be a friend.