Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Stranger in a Strange Land

About three weeks ago, my wife and I were sitting in our regular spots in church. We attend the early service which is generally lower in attendance than the later one. We like that because it seems a little more intimate and relaxed.
However, there are commonalities between the two gatherings, one being that our pastor encourages us to divide up into small groups for a few minutes and discuss the a question or topic amongst ourselves. Now I have to admit that when I first started attending Threads (our church) that this practice was more than a little intimidating for me. In my previous church environment this just wasn't done, therefore I became very comfortable with very little interaction outside of the coffee hour with those I went to church with. So I understand when others feel that way as well.
This particular morning I noticed a young lady sitting by herself a couple of rows behind us. I had never seen her before, so I assumed she was new to our gatherings. She looked extremely nervous and ready to bolt for the door. My wife, being infinitely more intuitive about these things than I am, went and talked with the young lady and welcomed her into our midst. Beth ( not her real name) immediately asked " I was here last week and he put us into small groups. Is he going to do that again? If he does. I am going to have to leave. I don't do well talking to strangers."
We told her that if the pastor did that we would like her to come and sit by us, because since we had just been introduced, we were no longer strangers. She agreed and we had a wonderful time of discussion and had a few laughs as well. Beth and my wife really connected and when we left church we had her email address and Diane and her were going to contact each other. She thanked us for reaching out to her.
Beth didn't come to church this week. Diane kept looking for her, but she never came. Maybe she was out of town or not feeling well. Or maybe her fear of interacting with new people was greater than anyone thought. Diane is going to contact her and tell her that we miss her.
My whole point is this. God sometimes sets us up with divine appointments. Situations we are not expecting that allow us opportunities to witness. Sometimes to total strangers. How we react to those situations is entirely up to us. I want to get better at it. I'm certainly not the world's best at communicating with strangers, but how much impact am I going to have if I only interact with people I already know?
For me it is a matter of how I approach it. Two things cross my mind as I meditate on this.
One, that everyone I know, even my wife, was at one time a stranger. I have been able to develop some incredible relationships with people that at one time I didn't know from Adam. Two, that if they are a stranger to me, I am also a stranger to them. We start out on common ground. That makes it a little less intimidating.
I hope to do better with my future divine appointments.
And I hope Beth comes to church next week for we are no longer strangers.


The Lithuanialist said...

Bravo Gary! Isn't it funny how 99% of the effort in a situation like that is just the choice to RESPOND! We have no idea what Beth's futures holds, but in her short time with the Bouwmans, she felt loved. Very cool.

Willis Bouwman said...

Hey! Good stuff dad. You know even after being at Threads for over 5 years, I still have to be very intentional about doing the interaction times with people I do not know. It is still an area that is not the most comfortable for me. It's alot easier for me to sing in front of hundreds of people than it is for me to talk to just one stranger. Well done on both you and mom for taking that step!