Monday, August 10, 2009

Heed the Labels

Two hours in the shuttle van, if there’s no slowdown on the Interstate to Sky Harbor. So far I was the only passenger, and that suited me fine; it was going to be a very busy day.

About twenty minutes later the driver was pulling into a convenience store parking lot in Spring Valley. The new passenger looked to be thirty, but it was his T-shirt that caught my attention, a picture of a bronze Buddha sat encircled with big green leaves. He slid in across from me and nodded a hello.

I turned from the window to face the newcomer and smiled. I was wearing a sky-blue T-shirt with a rainbow arched over fluffy clouds. Pink letters proclaim: “Heaven, don’t miss it.”

His curt, “You must be a Christian,” comment sounded a little too sharp, but this was the opening I wanted. My reply was a sweet, “Your god doesn’t love you.”

“I don’t have a god, I don’t need a god. I’m a free-thinker and proud of it.”

“Well, see if I’ve got this right. You don’t believe that any all-wise Creator made the cosmos, millions of universes, et cetera, that is if we’re open-minded enough to look out at the night sky,” and I went on to say, “I have a MA in Education from ASU. How about you?”

“BA in Business, if that is germane to this conversation.” Then he added with a smile, “Gerald Setter here, your captive audience all the way to the airport.”

“I’m Shelly Wilson, and thanks for the invitation. Nothing like a stimulating game of verbal ping-pong.”

“Love,” he mused, “everyone’s got an opinion.”

In a kindly tone I repeated, “Your god doesn’t love you. What a loss. Well, actually, I’m happy to inform you that my God does love you.”

“Ha!” he interjected, “your god doesn’t even know me. Maybe I’m a jerk, or worse.”

“Good news from the one and only Bible, God knows all about you and He loves you.”

“You Christians,” he sighed, “all tied up in denominations that argue with each other, and big-name leaders with big egos. How is a poor college-educated atheist to find out which dogma to believe?”

“Good point, Gerald. None of those busy-body denominations or holier-than-thou speakers are mentioned by name in the Bible. Anyone can just go straight to the Bible for themselves and see what God wants us to know.”


“Astronomy, archaeology, chemistry, you name it. People smarter than you and I have looked into the veracity of the Bible. It’s not politically correct for some of them to speak out. But someone like me, normal and ordinary, can see the logic of believing in one God, Creator of Everything.”

With no retort from him I marched right on with my points. “Mankind goofs off and disobeys the one and only test of obedience God gave in the beginning. To show the seriousness of that disobedience there’s a penalty. A death penalty. But with unimaginable love God sends Jesus, His only Son to pay that death penalty. Jesus was that perfect sacrifice. Now, to escape the penalty each individual needs only to own up to his/her sins and ask to claim that forgiveness.”

Now, silence was welcome. Time and prayer was on my side. Actually the man had been labeled for prayer by his T-shirt.

We exchanged some thoughtful conversation, and I’m trusting God to continue to speak to him.

You’ve seen them, too. People wearing provocative T-shirts, people adorned with colorful ink on their bodies, men and women who just “look different” from the rest of us.

Just last week my friend Ada mentioned a woman visiting at church who raised her eyebrows in a “look at this” gesture when a young tattooed biker walked up front to play a song on his guitar. That woman also showed her need for your prayer.

What to do — ignore or insult them? There is a better way. Consider that they are labeled for prayer. For some reason they came within your view, and the Lord had you notice them. You can ask the Lord to bless them, fill them with His love, show them the answers they need to find, bring other caring Christians into their lives.

Heed those labels. Make the most of the opportunity God is giving you. # # #

by Elaine Hardt ©2009