People say I am nice.
If they spent 20 minutes in my brain, they would realize I am narcisstic, megalomaniac. Not kidding, either. But for the grace of God I may very well have become some sort of Bondian villain–and not a cool specialist like Oddjob or Jaws. I would have been the henchdunce that falls into the vat in of acid. (Ha ha “henchdunce” [I should be TMing that])
But I digress. They say I am nice, and perhaps the Jehovah’s Witnesses with whom I met Monday would agree. But I don’t feel very nice. In fact, I feel rather foolish and rightly so. Let me tell you what happened.
A knock came at the door. A knock. And voices. These walls are thin. I answered in my writing suit (that is, my pajamas), to find two find two women carrying what appeared to be Bibles. They asked me how I was, and I responded that I was well and hid the fact that I was very inconvenienced by their arrival. One was named Babi, and she was visting from India and also doing some evangelism.
It’s hard to say no to a woman who has traveled across the world to share her faith, and it’s more difficult to do so when you believe her doctrine is inaccurate. I considered the best way to respond. I thought of some of the stories Christian have told me over the years of how they treated Jehovah’s Witnesses, and I also thought of I John 4, which I am trying to memorize. The incongruence between these recollections was of such level that my brain turned to vapor. I simply thought, “It cold. Ask in.” which I did, though with slightly more eloquence than my brain had used during the inner monologue.
When they entered, I directed them to two specific seats, and they sat wherever they wanted. I grabbed my cup of tea and did two things incorrectly. The first was that I sat comfortably, which meant that the fly was open on my jammies, and my stripey underpants were, for all intents and purposes, no longer “under” but available for all to see. Second, I offered them nothing to drink, though I enjoyed my lukewarm tea.
I should add that during our introductions on the porch I was forthcoming that I believed in salvation by Christ. They affirmed all I said and claimed they agreed, making me feel I had missed something in my statement of faith and also that I knew little of Jehovah’s Witnesses.
So, that stage being set, we chatted. They claimed their own position as being a type of Christian. They offered me a book. They read the Lord’s Prayer and presented an interpretation, to which I expressed a differing viewpoint. They discussed the importance of the heavenly kingdom on earth, and I did the same with more qualifiers. Overall, we had a cordial time; even when I was firm on the fact that they were not to come back to this house.
Why then do I feel like such a failure? Was I supposed to shut the door in their face and get back to writing without a second thought? Was I supposed to, at the very least, keep our conversations outside in the cold?
Last time evangelist’s came to my door, it was my apartment in Cali, and they were Mormons. When they came knocking four years ago, I answered, informed them that I was ill, and told them to have a nice day–but not before making some pithy remark about the Biblical canon’s completion at the council of Nicea in 323–a fact set that was sure to show them I knew less about church history than they did. I have thought of those two young men at times, and I lament how I handled that situation. I wish I would have sat with them, let them speak, and shared my faith in return. Instead I told them I had far less interest in their eternal plight than they clearly had for mine.
I wanted to do this one better, and I am unsure if I did. Two things specifically lead to my self-abasement. First, Peter tells believers how to engage in dialog, by answering with gentleness and respect. This is hard, especially when you’re me and say things like this, “I appreciate your offering me this [100-page reader with pictures], but I would hate to mislead you ladies into thinking I am on the market for a new faith system when I am not. In light of having these [multiple Bible translations] on my phone and throughout the house, I won’t be reading this book; and I would hate for it to sit gathering dust on some shelf after you paid to have it printed.” Of course, then they just handed me leaflets. Or there was this doozy when they asked if they could come back Saturday, “I feel very uncomfortable about your doing so, for this is not my house. This house belongs to my parents; and while I will enjoy in these discussions, I certainly do not want to impose them on anyone else at this residence. You are more than welcome to tell me where you are located, and I can come there if I want to dialog, but I would ask that you not return here in the future.” Plus, remember how I failed to offer them beverages.
But maybe in some circles, the above text qualifies as having “gentleness and respect”. But that is not what bothers me. In hindsight I realize that regardless of my demeanor, my second issue is the major one. I missed the biggest question for each of these women, “I understand what the text says, but what do you say? What do you believe, deep down? Did Christ pay the ransom for you personally or is that just a tenant?” Had I really cared about the plight of these women and not fulfilling my own needs to be kind (or, at least, try), I think that this question would have sprung to mind. I think it would have been the first thing I thought to ask, but it wasn’t.
I am in a weird head space. Part of me thinks I improved over my prior encounter with door-to-door folks, but another part of me is burdened with my own lack of concern for them as well as my selfish conceits. So, dear readers, I have a request! If you have stories about your own experiences, anecdotes on how to respond, or links to those who do, please share. I have this aching suspicion that if I continue to write from home, I am going to be navigating these waters with frequency; and I think some more reflection for such encounters will be useful.
As far as my posts go, this was a Sir-Hiss-level long one, so I value your reading all the way through it. Thanks as always,