I wouldn’t start here

By Deacon Mike Siebert

I live in the middle of nowhere.  To be more correct, if you go to the middle of nowhere, turn left and drive a couple more miles into a holler where there is no cell signal – THAT’s where I live.

A lady from the city was driving down our road, obviously lost, and she stopped to ask for directions.  She asked, “How do I get to the Interstate?”

My first answer was, “Wow – you really ARE lost! The first thing you need to know is I wouldn’t start here.”

Ever met someone who is so lost they’re not even on the map?  They don’t even know there is a right way to go or a right way to live.  Seems they’re driving in circles as fast as they can, making a mess of their life.  How do we help someone like that?  Is it OK just to let them know how lost they are? No – we need to at least get them back to a good starting point.

Same with evangelization.  Too often, Christians concentrate on telling people how lost they are.  Sometimes, we may try to give them directions to the Kingdom of God (you really SHOULD do THIS and STOP doing THAT).  Problem is, many people are so far off the map, we need to meet them where they are and LEAD them back to a paved road.

How?  For my city lady, I had to first get her back to a State Highway.  In fact, I got on my four-wheeler and led her through the initial, confusing turns on the back-country roads until we got to a place she would feel comfortable on her own; you know – a road with lines and signs (and GPS signal).

It’s the same for our folks in need of evangelizing.  Yeah, they’re lost – but we meet them where they are, point them to a better place and then accompany them as they start their journey.  Each person is at a different spot – a different level of lost-ness, you might say.  They may not even realize that holiness is our destination.  So, we start by directing them back to one of the tried-and-true paths to Jesus.

The good news is that all roads lead to Jesus.  Like a GPS, as soon as we declare that our destination is Jesus, the little computer will automatically re-calculate – starting wherever you are – and guide you toward your destination.  That’s really good news to share:  Pretty much, all you gotta do is decide to turn around, and you’re already closer to Jesus than you were a moment ago.

It’s simple – but not easy.  In other words, getting onto the path really IS as simple as turning toward Christ.  But that doesn’t shorten the trip.  You still gotta go the distance, make the necessary life changes, get to know Jesus through His word, spend time with Him and start talking to Him as a friend through prayer.  It’s a long, challenging road with lots of turns.  That’s why they need you and me to hop in our four-wheeler and ride along with them for a while – maybe for the whole trip.

If we’re willing to invest our time, our emotion, our very lives to assist someone onto the path toward Jesus, then we become invested in that person.  Chances are, we’ll become friends – and that friendship might be their only connection to Jesus.  What’s cool is, this friendship benefits both of us.  Our new friend will likely see things from a different perspective and ask questions about things we don’t even notice.  There are so many truths we grow up believing; but it’s in the questioning, pondering, meditating that deeper truths are revealed:

No matter how far along the path of holiness we’ve gotten, each of us has more to learn.  In some way – all of us are lost.  We gotta get over the pride and stop to ask for directions.  Each of us has at least one area that we need to question so we’ll grow.  And when we do stop – it’s likely the answer will be, “I wouldn’t start here.”

Deacon Mike Seibert serves at St. Isidore the Farmer Parish, which includes St. Peter Celestine Church in Celestine, Indiana, and St. Raphael Church in Dubois, Indiana.