Friday, November 6, 2015

The smile I didn't want, but needed

While Nev and I were out and about today, I decided to make a quick stop to Walmart on the way home.  I decided to wear her throughout the store since she just can't quite sit up in the cart yet.  A few people complimented her or my wrap as we walked through the store.  One woman stopped me to ask me how I made something to wrap her like that.  I explained that I bought the wrap, but gave a quick one-liner about baby wearing.  English was not her first language, and I don't understand thick accents very well, so it was taking all of my concentration to have a conversation with her.  She asked me several questions about wrapping.  About a minute in, though, she abruptly changed the subject to why she *really* stopped to talk to me.

A church group in which she is involved has started a Bible study and she was out to recruit members.  She asked where I go to church and I told her.  I was in a part of town very far from my house and much farther from my congregation.  I explained that I appreciated it, but I didn't think that would work for me.  She went on to tell me how much I needed to study with her about "God the Mother - the female image of God."  She gave me a whole spiel about how we have only ever been taught about God the Father and that we are missing who God really is since we were made in His image - men and women alike.

I told her that I didn't believe that the Bible referenced God in that way.  I said I had been studying the Bible since I was a child - not to "one up" her or anything like that, but to explain that I wasn't basing my reasoning on my own thoughts.  She said that 2000 years ago, Jesus brought a new teaching that most didn't believe because it isn't what they had been taught.  It took 12 men to be open-minded enough to listen to what Jesus had to say.  She went on and on about God creating everything and that we as women were made in His image, as well.  I started to wonder if maybe they were using a shock factor to get people interested, but ultimately just want both men and women to know that they are children of God... maybe?  I mentioned that maybe my disagreement with that concept is just semantics, that I might not disagree with the basic principles she was referencing.

Honestly, at this point I was just trying to end the conversation.  Nev doesn't have much patience for standing still, and we were testing her limits as she kept reminding me.  I had already told this woman that I was not interested, but I was *not* going to be rude to her, either.  Here's where the whole conversation changed.  I was trying to dismiss her while being respectful and polite.  She said that it was the end times and now is when we need to be studying about God.  I jumped in and said, "Yes, I understand, but I am a saved person.  I have a wonderful relationship with God."

Then she smiled.  It wasn't a sweet smile, it was a smile that I knew all too well.  It was a smile tinged with pity and a hint of "if only you knew the truth..."  It made my stomach sink in my gut, but that was a moment of clarity.  See, I have been on the other side of that conversation a thousand times.  For a large part of my life, I talked to people about the Bible and salvation and when they told me they were saved, or about their relationship with Jesus, I gave them "the smile."  It's knowing that the conversation is over because the poor, sad person you were talking to wouldn't listen to your superior knowledge of what it means to be saved.

It made me sick.  It made me sick to think that this woman thought she knew more about my salvation than I did.  And then it made me sick to know that I had been on that side of the conversation most of my life.

I am ashamed.

With as much genuine sweetness as I could muster, I told her that I appreciated her talking to me and that she might get better reception with people who don't already have a relationship with God.

I know I could have handled the situation better.  I know there are a thousand things I could have told her.  But honestly, I think God used that situation to teach me a lesson that's been a long time coming.  If nothing else, it's that I should be humble when talking to others about their relationships with God.  I can not assume I know more about their salvation than they do (but be willing to talk to them about it if they are unsure).  And I hope to never make someone feel inferior by giving them "the smile."

Have you been on either side of that conversation?  What would you have done differently?