I came across a funny and interesting blog post by Brianna Heldt, a Catholic blogger who considers herself an introvert. She’s comfortable writing about her faith, but feels awkward talking about it. Actually, as with most introverts, she feels uncomfortable talking in general. As a person with introvert tendencies myself, I know where she’s coming from. Stick us in a corner with a book and we’re good to go.
Recently, Brianna found herself living an introvert’s worst nightmare: sitting next to an extrovert on a plane and being forced to have a conversation. Not just any conversation, but one about religion. With a man who hates religion.
Instead of catechizing or preaching to this man, who thankfully remained friendly throughout their conversation, Brianna simply shared her personal story – and mixed in some humor as well. In doing so, she rediscovered the power of a good story. She writes:
I wound up having to explain my family. I have been married ten years already, I have a slew of kids, seven to be exact, four of them adopted, two of them were born with Down syndrome, and one baby on the way.
After helping the man overcome his shock (the official and uncensored Heldt Family Disclosure tends to have that effect on people), I figured nothing I could possibly reveal about my faith would phase him.
And, it didn’t. We actually wound up talking the entire flight (with me gazing longingly at my book every so often, still tucked sadly away in my purse), covering such topics as religion, good deeds, violence, adoption, Hell, parenting (he has two children), and Joel Osteen.
Yes, Joel Osteen.
Because he had a Joel Osteen book with him, which seemed funny to me since he’d already announced his disdain for any and all religion. But he said his boss had recommended the book, and he saw it in the airport bookstore, so he bought it. I told him that with a title like Every Day a Friday, he probably couldn’t go wrong, because Friday’s are generally pretty awesome. He agreed….…His story was fairly predictable for a forty-something American from Nebraska: he’d been raised Catholic, he walked away from religion at some point and eventually came to hate the hypocrisy he saw in Christianity, but is concerned about the moral decline of our country. Interestingly, at no point in our conversation was either of us combative. (Had it gone down that path, I would have jumped for sure, parachute or no parachute.) He was interested, plain and simple, in my story and in my family, and in what compelled us to choose the life we’ve carved out for ourselves.
It was actually a good reminder of the power of story. People are naturally curious and inquisitive, and I think that in this day and age especially, they want to see life. Because one need not look far to see where society has taken us–life, dignity, and perserverance in the face of trials are ever so slowly disappearing from the cultural landscape. Instead, the stories being written today seem to be more about convenience, materialism, and the freedom to destroy masquerading as, well, freedom.
Now don’t get me wrong. I’m sure I had about as much impact on this man as Joel Osteen probably did, sitting (and smiling–I wonder if he ever isn’t smiling?) unread in the man’s backpack. I didn’t make a convert out of him (I wasn’t trying), I didn’t convince him that he and his wife ought to adopt a child (I wasn’t trying), and I am sure he’s long since forgotten about the shy woman on the airplane that he initially thought was a teenager, but who turned out to have a slew of kids and a weird affinity for Jesus. But that’s not really the point. The point is that I shared a small piece of the story that God has given me, and I’m always saying that God’s story ought to be told, and sometimes the opportunity arises to share it in person in a most unexpected way.
Read the whole story. It will be worth your time.