I was saying goodbye to a friend the other day - a friend who isn't from my Christian circles - and two little words tumbled out of my mouth before I could gather them up again:
The thoughts that followed in my head went something like this:
"Did I really just say that?"
The look on her face said that I did. I almost died.
"You idiot Michaela - you can't say that around her!"
The microsecond of awkwardness that passed felt like a million years.
The thing is, the words came out so nonchalantly. I shouldn't be surprised because it's a part of my everyday language - 90% of the people I interact with are practicing Christians. But it got me thinking: first, why are 90% of the people I interact with practicing Christians - if I'm truly Christian as I claim to be, should it not be more like 50%? And second, why do I alter what I say based on who I am talking to? Why would I censor everything that makes me who I am? Is it fear of offense? Of rejection?
I mean seriously, what's the worst that can happen? She's going to think that I'm looking down my nose at her? She's going to think I'm a little weird and choose to ignore that part of me? She's going to not want to be friends with me anymore? I think the real question is, could I really live with myself if she never came to know Jesus because I hid Him from her?
It's these little interactions that make all the difference. The not being afraid (or rather, choosing through the fear) to say grace before a meal in public. The not avoiding eye contact with the homeless guy at the bus stop. The not convincing myself that the new girl at Mass is fine sitting by herself. The not hushing my voice when I'm talking about God on the phone in the checkout line of the supermarket. The not hiding my rosary in my pocket as I pray on my way home. The not describing my old job as working in "youth leadership" or "helping disadvantaged kids" when I worked in youth ministry for the Catholic Church.
When we omit these parts of ourselves and show the world that Christians are just "nice", we're doing the world a disservice. They see nothing bold, nothing daring, nothing powerful about being Christian. We come across as soft. There's no point wearing a crucifix around our necks and advertising that fact. For why would anyone be attracted to the Catholic Church if we're all just "living a good life" and "being good people". I'm pretty sure they'd much rather be out partying or watching Game of Thrones.
As Pope Francis said during a homily in May 2013, "When the Church loses apostolic courage, she becomes a stalled Church, a tidy Church, a Church that is nice to look at, but that is without fertility."
If I look back over my journey into the faith, those people who stood out along the way were the ones who did not deny who they were. They were the Chris Brown fans (during his innocent "No Air" days) who prayed the rosary daily. They were the D'n'M instigators at late night Maccas runs. They were the mountain climbers who blared Christian worship out their car speakers all the way to the bush and back. Their willingness to show this part of themselves gave me permission to do so myself. They gave me something to reach for.
So, no. I don't want to be "nice". I don't want to be a good person. I want to be a great person. I want to make a mark. I want my life to count. And I cannot do that by hiding what I practice on Sunday from my Monday through to Saturday. I cannot do that by being Christian around Christians and not around the rest of the world.
Back to my moment of panic: what happened after our microsecond of awkwardness? The best part - her response.
"Oh. Uhmm - love you too, Michaela."
I think they're more afraid than we are.
Some further reading:
- Pope Paul VI: Evangelii Nuntiandi (see #14)
- Pope John Paul II: Evangelium Vitae
- USCCB: "What is the New Evangelization"
- Pope Francis: "To Evangelize, We Must Be Open to the Action of the Spirit of God"
Michaela Daphne is an author, copywriter, and blogger from Australia.
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