On an afternoon outing in the mountains, I found myself enjoying the scenery and lunch at a little outdoor patio café. I had been reflecting on the beauty around me and talking to the Lord about my sense of His nearness in creation, so I thought I would journal a bit as I ate my lunch. A few minutes into my musings, a lady sat down at my table and asked if she could join me, as it was quite crowded over the lunch hour.
We began to talk. She asked why I was in the area, so I told her about the conference I was attending that was focusing on people’s spiritual longings or soul cravings. I asked her if she felt that these inherent longings for love, belonging, and acceptance that everyone in the world has could have come from God. Could it be we were designed by Him to have these deep needs which were meant to be filled by Him?
She began to tell me that she was an agnostic and felt that it did not matter what you believed, as long as you did not force it on others. She acknowledged that she had traveled the world extensively and did find that every people group she had engaged with had these same inner longings for love, belonging, and acceptance. In her travels, she had discovered that many people who adhere to one specific faith became narrow-minded, almost arrogant in their insistence on having the right religious system. She looked at me and asked “Where is the genuine care and authenticity”? As I listened, she went on to say that out of all the places she has been in the world, North America is the worst for not listening. She said she can sit with someone and hear his or her whole life story, but that person never asks one thing about her. North America, she said, can tend to be a very self-focused, self-indulgent society.
As I pondered her last statement, she looked up at me and asked, “Do you follow a certain religious path in your personal life”? I told her I was not that fond of religion either, but had found a genuine and authentic relationship in the person of Jesus Christ. She looked at me and said, “He was one of the only people who said ‘Don’t judge.’” She asked me how I knew He was authentic and real. I felt the Lord prompting me to share a small snippet of my personal story, a journey where God moved me from fear into freedom in such specific ways that there was no questioning His reality. She listened graciously and affirmed my experience. When I was done sharing, she took my words with her as something to ponder- this personally-involved God who cares about our fears and struggles. As she got up, she thanked me for our conversation and returned to work.
I sat there in the beauty of God’s creation, in the middle of that gorgeous mountain range, and contemplated God’s overwhelming love for the woman I had just met with. I pondered her words, her longing to be heard, and her desire to know a God who is genuine and authentic. I marveled at God’s timing in putting the two of us together in that moment, and I prayed the words we shared would penetrate her heart in a way that would reveal the genuine authentic love of God for her personally.
God is teaching me to be released to Him so that these kinds of casual conversations can be had at impromptu times wherever He places me, and with whomever He places me. It is a leap for me, as I feel so inadequate. The fear God freed me from that I had shared briefly with this lady was social anxiety. So the very situation I found myself in that day with her pressed all those buttons of fear and insecurity for me. However, as I had shared with her, I realized God has made Himself genuinely known to me, and has helped me overcome many of those fears in order to reach out and engage my world in conversation about Him. He is giving me an understanding of His love for people and His desire to use those who are His to share that love with others who have these deep longings that only He can fill.
God showed me through this conversation that people want to be heard. He wants us to listen to others and their stories, and to hear their heart cry underneath their words. He also revealed that they want to find a God who is genuine, authentic, and who truly cares – they may not say it in so many words, but they are looking for a God who is personally present. Our world is more interested in spiritual conversations than we often think they are. My challenge to you is to ask God to help you risk and enter into these conversations, listening by the power of the Holy Spirit, and sharing from the heart with a world that is longing for what only God can fill.