I have found these types of relationships to be quick forming and deeply transparent. Something about the temporary nature and inevitable separation from each other--usually forever--allows people to lower their defences and reveal their heart and soul. Two such occasions in my life occurred on the Spirit of Tasmania, the ferry that connects Tasmania with mainland Australia.
My cabinmate on one trip, John, invited me to sit with him for breakfast. After we had been talking for a few hours, John carefully worded a question, "Dave, can I ask you a question? You don't have to answer, if it offends you. OK?"
I agreed. He then asked, "Does it make you mad that I am not a Christian? I mean, it's your job to make me into one. And I'm not. So does that anger you?"
I was stunned. Was this what people outside Christianity thought of Christians--particularly pastors? Are we so single-minded that our only reason for being friendly is to make others be like us?
Humbled, I responded, "Not at all, John. Life is a journey. We meet people, have experiences, make decisions and live as best we can. I think it highly arrogant to expect that I would be the one person to turn you into a Christian! Each person we meet in life is a stepping stone in our path. I only hope that our time together has taken you one step closer to Jesus."
He seemed to like that answer. "So, you aren't expecting me to want to go to church with you next week?"
I laughed, "Nope. But, I must tell you something, John. I believe that God answers prayer. And now I know your name, I will be praying for you!"
He surprised me by saying, "Thanks, Dave. That really means alot. I will be thinking about this conversation for a long time." As have I, John. Another time on the Spirit, I was reading my Bible outside the
cafeteria, waiting for breakfast. I looked up to see a father, Robert, and his eight-year-old son, Isaiah. Robert was almost glowing as he said, "Is that the Word, brother?"
I smiled, "Yes. Yes it is!" Robert pumped me for my profile: Seventh-day Adventist, pastor, doing my morning reading. I was amused by his passionate interest in my spiritual biography. "Come, Isaiah," he concluded. "Let the pastor return to God's Book." Moments later, Isaiah bolted back into my presence, "Would you please sit with us for breakfast? I saved you a seat!" I closed my Bible and followed him. As breakfast ended, Robert said, "Pastor, would I be able to talk to you in private?" We went to another deck where he asked, "I have been to Adventist churches and heard the Bible texts about the Sabbath being on Saturday. Can you prove to me, without using the Bible, that the Sabbath is still valid?" I sent up a quick prayer. This was a unique request. An answer came, "Robert, are you familiar with the call to tithing in Malachi?" "You mean where it says, 'Bring your tithes and offerings into God's storehouse?'" he asked. "Yes," I replied. "That passage demonstrates that tithing is more about God's promise than our obedience. The text states that if God's people return 10 per cent of their income--a tithe--He will bless them. It says He will deliver so many blessings they won't have storehouses big enough to store all the bounty! The Sabbath is like tithing. God promises that if we honour His Sabbath, He will bless us. Robert, I would like to offer you a challenge." His eyes widened, "OK. What is it?" "Keep the Sabbath for six months. Set it aside as a special day for God and see if He blesses you." Robert smiled. "My wife and I have been keeping the Sabbath for Both conversations reveal how God works in people's hearts. God is patient. He tinkers with the heart, day by day, revealing more of Himself, His love and His plan. While at times He may seem far off, God is no stranger to your heart or mine. You must worship Christ as Lord of your life. And if you are asked about your Christian hope, always be ready to explain it. 1 Peter 3:15. David Edgren is associate editor of Signs of the Times, based in Warburton, Victoria.