A surprising lesson in sharing my faith
Awkwardness and Faith
Have you ever wrestled for an armrest on a plane? I often have experiences where I feel like a spot in line is a fight to the death. My passive aggressive side or just plain aggressive side comes out when strangers seem to violate these kind of unspoken rules that keep our society together. Maybe you are oblivious to these types of things but if something like this has ever annoyed you then you may want to read on.
I recently had an experience on a flight where the person sitting next to me changed the armrest battle game for ever. He is like the Tiger Woods of hogging the armrest. Instead of fighting over who would get the armrest he used a “unique” startegy that took the only comfort a middle seat person has out of play altogether! At the time I didn’t realize this armrest battle would come to symbolize something that would strengthen my ability to share my faith.
It was gamble, but I went ahead and did it. I chose a middle seat to be close to the front of the plane. When it came time to take my seat I noticed a hefty guy sitting in the window seat spread across half of my seat as well. When I sat down he didn’t budge. So I put down the armrest that fell squarely on his leg. Again, he didn’t move.
So I did the only thing a friendly person would do. I began pushing the armrest down into his leg so that he would hopefully get the passive aggressive point that he was in my seat as well as his own. His response – nothing. Even though he wasn’t giving me my seat back I just left the armrest sitting on his leg as a reminder of how he was inconveniencing me on this short 30 minute connection flight.
Then things got a little dicey. Our short connection turned into a 2 hour delay on the ground. My seat buddy didn’t seem to mind because he had his legs spread out comfortable into my area with a tablet watching a raunchy chainsaw murder movie. I decided to read a book while we waited to take off, but I have to admit his movie was a distraction.
A Sign of Defeat?
If I was to judge simply by his movie selection and lack of compassion for others on this place I would have to conclude that maybe I should take a moment to talk to me new seatmate about the love of God. I felt the Holy Spirit tell me to lift up the armrest. I didn’t want to though because it would be a sign of defeat. I would be giving up on the battle for my seat.
Then another raunchy seen came on the tablet. I thought, “Ok, I need to say something. I understand he has the freedom to watch whatever he wants, but it is only 5:00 a.m. in the morning. The lights are out in the cabin, and his screen is illuminating my world like a flashlight in my face while sleeping in the middle of the night. I might as well share a little light myself.”
Giving up Ground
I lifted the armrest and tapped him on the shoulder. He paused his movie at a not so well-timed spot, and took out his headphones. At this point things could have gone a lot of different directions. I could have confronted him about his overall rudeness. I could have handed him a gospel tract and then followed an evangelism script. I didn’t choose any of these.
I asked him about his family, his work, and what brought him to Birmingham. His flight was re-routed and he had spent the night in the airport. We talked some more and then weirdly after about an hour and half of conversation the timer on my watch went off. I didn’t remember setting it and I must have accidentally hit a timer while skimming around for what space remained of my seat.
When this happened I felt the Holy Spirit say, “Times up. Go ahead and share with him what you know you need to say.” Then I told him I think I may know why his plane was delayed. I believe God is pursuing his heart. Sometimes life takes a different direction then we expect but God knows what is happening all along.
He was from a small town in West Virginia without any church background. I shared the gospel with him. I was a little rusty in my presentation. It had been a while since I have shared so directly with a stranger like this. But he received it well and I learned a lesson in the process.
Sometimes we have to be willing to give up ground if we want to be able to gain ground later. We must give allowances for people’s faults and short comings if we want any chance to influence them through those areas. In other words, we need to be willing to lift the armrests in our lives between us and those we want to influence for Jesus. We don’t need to let the things that don’t matter keep us from getting to the only thing that matters.
If I would have asked him to just go ahead and turn off his crazy movie do you think he gives me a chance to share the gospel? I don’t think so. Does doing that get to the root of any issue? Again, no. I am glad I lost that armrest battle.
If we are going to build bridges to where people are we need to give up ground on our end first and hopefully, if they are willing, they will offer us the same once the bridge gets to their side as well.
The Daniel Dilemma by Chris Hodges teaches us to love well and stand firm. Check it out!