I am back from my unintentional hiatus! Turns out, preparing for and starting school was a little more demanding than I expected. My littles were having sleep issues, leaving me exhausted. Instead of writing during nap time, I napped during nap time! But, I am back and will conclude my “How To Share Jesus Naturally” series today and next Tuesday.
Initiating does not come easy or natural for me. As long as I can remember, I backed into corners and prayed someone would say hi to me and ask to be my friend. I was so shy as a child that sometimes, even when people said hi, I ignored them because I felt social terror welling up inside me.
Even as an adult, I often still feel like that frightened girl in the corner. So, when I encourage you to be an initiator, please know, I am mostly speaking to myself. I know I can’t be alone.
If we want to be used by God to share Jesus with others, we have to be willing to move out of our comfort zones and trust that God will carry our discomfort. The truth is, life is difficult and not much comes from lack of initiating. Things don’t just fall into our laps. It gets exhausting, I know, so it is hard to use your last ounce of energy to initiate with other people, especially if you’re an introvert.
If you are an introvert-it’s OK. Have grace on yourself. I am not challenging you to initiate every living moment of your life. God wired you to receive energy in solitude and there is nothing wrong with that. Solitude is needed.
But, I promise all the awkwardness, annoying small talk, and discomfort is worth it. This goes for any relationship in life-not just in sharing Jesus with others. Awkwardness turns to familiarity, small talk into depth, and discomfort into ease.
Think about even your closest, most familiar friend-that relationship started with someone initiating and there was some sort of awkwardness at the beginning. We can’t have the depth by skipping the first step of awkwardness.
Here are three ways we can be initiators when it comes to sharing Jesus naturally:
Be the first to speak. I know, this is terrifying to some. It is for me too. But, remember, the other person most likely feels scared, awkward, and uncomfortable too. They want the same things as you do-to be seen, to have a friend, and to be loved.
Find a common ground to spark a conversation-children, books, the area you live, for examples. My friend Kendra, Creator of the Lazy Genius Collective, has a great Podcast episode about creating the dreaded small talk. It’s titled “The Lazy Genius Makes a Friend.” Check it out.
Just about anything can be used to spark a conversation. The other night, a stranger commented on my App State t-shirt, which led into a short conversation about the state of our country. We got deep in ten seconds. That doesn’t always happen, but it reminded me that conversation is not as difficult as we make it sometimes. Think of initiating conversation as throwing the fishing line. If the person responds, awesome. Keep talking and finding common ground. If not, then move on or try again.
Once you’ve established connection and common ground, you can initiate relationship. This usually happens after seeing a person multiple times and engaging in small talk, but it is not too awkward to do it on the first engagement, if you feel it’s appropriate.
Remember my friend, Jessie? After seeing the same moms at the library and engaging in small talk with them, she took the next step by initiating a time to hang out with them outside of the library.
As I was preparing to write this post, a funny thing happened and I became the recipient of someone initiating bravely. I was sitting with my kids, eating lunch, and she was sitting about a table away with her child. We had a brief conversation at the drink machine, which was mostly me making light of my awkward maneuver between the sweet and unsweet tea. As she was getting ready to leave, she approached me and said “I know this is super awkward, but our kids are about the same age and I am looking for other moms to hang out with. Would you be interested in getting together some time?” She later admitted this was completely out of her comfort zone.
Being on the receiving end, I did not think this was at all awkward and I deeply appreciated that she asked. It made me feel seen, in a role where I often feel unseen. And now I have a new friend! The other person doesn’t feel as awkward as you do, trust me!
Initiate Spiritual Conversation
Sometimes your friend will bring up God and that is awesome, but that doesn’t always happen. Just because they don’t talk about God does not necessarily mean they are uninterested in hearing about Him. They may not be used to talking to others about spiritual things. God may not even be on their radar until you initiate a conversation about him.
There is a way to do this that is not obnoxious or interfering, the two things we often fear when bringing up Jesus. When something changes your life or takes up a large portion of it, what do we do? We talk about it. It’s not weird for us to mention Jesus, going to church, or our spiritual struggles because it is part of our daily lives. Jesus IS our life. More times than not, we actually avoid talking about him.
Everyone is broken and looking to something to fill themselves. It’s part of being human. Connecting your own brokenness to theirs is a way to initiate conversation about God. I will talk exclusively about this next week, when I write about how to share your story.
If your friend doesn’t want to talk about God, you don’t have to force it. God asks us to be faithful, trust him, and try. If it goes nowhere, that’s OK. Keep praying for your friend.
When We Fear Rejection
Rejection is the fear that floods our hearts when it comes to initiating with others. In each step of the process (Initiating Conversation-Relationship-Spiritual Conversation,) the risk of rejection is greater. It’s a real fear; I want to acknowledge that. It is my own greatest fear. It paralyzes us and causes anxiety if we allow it to. If you are a flighter, like me, you do all you can to avoid that fear. Initiating is the last thing you want to do.
The first step to trusting God in our fear is to acknowledge it. Let’s not pretend the fear of rejection isn’t there, or that it’s not a big deal. It IS a big deal when it weighs heavy on our souls and threatens our existence. Admitting that frees us to surrender our fear of rejection to the Lord.
Second, we can acknowledge that rejection probably won’t occur-and if it does, it will not be that terrible. Did you know that it’s been scientifically hypothesized that 85 percent of what we worry about NEVER happens? That’s a huge percentage of needless worry taking up space in our souls! This truth gives me hope and permission to breath easier.
But, what if we are rejected-especially on the deepest level? What if our friend is so offended by us talking about us talking about Jesus that they avoid us or choke our relationship? We remember that we have a God who relates to us on the deepest level-who was despised and rejected, abandoned by even his closest friends, and who endured even the separation from his beloved Father for the sake of our souls. We remember his grace is sufficient (2 Cor 12:9), that suffering produces hope that does not put us to shame (Romans 5:3-5), and that we serve a God who never rejects us (Psalm 9:10).
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Read the Rest of the Share Jesus Naturally Series: