By TRACEY MICHAE’L LEWIS-GIGGETTS
You’ve seen them. Bullhorn. Sunday suit circa ’79. Sometimes Black. Sometimes White. Always standing on some corner in the epicenter of Urban City, USA. Preaching these words:
“Repent from your sin today! The Kingdom of God is at hand.”
Or something like that.
I actually have mad respect for the street preacher. The sincere ones, anyway. You have to have some of that good ol’ mountain-moving faith to have that gig in today’s jaded, cynical, lump-all-Christians-together world. And you probably have to be just a wee bit cray. Yep… convinced, committed and cray.
But it’s been said that some of the disciples of Jesus were a little O.G. themselves (Peter cutting off ears anyone?), so there’s that.
Anyway, I’ve been thinking recently about how I function as a woman of faith in the world. About how I should teach my daughter to function as the woman of faith I can only hope she’ll be.
More specifically, how do I continue to exist as a writer whose faith, while not always prominent in every piece, is, thematically, the thread that runs through all her work and is the worldview from which said work is born? What should my faith look like in a world that tries its damndest (yep…that’s what I meant) to box me in as uninformed and unintelligent when I say, “I love Jesus. I believe in God. I believe the Bible.” Because here’s the thing: Any nuanced views I may have, any complexities I may demonstrate, my love for *gasp* both Tupac and Shirley Ceasar, my Afro’d head, my protesting in downtown Philly for somebody, ANYBODY to #bringbackourgirls, my belief that the SCOTUS was wrong, wrong, wrong in their recent decision re: Hobby Lobby, my reading of great non-religious literature…none of these…are aberrations! These live in the same space and come from the same soul that cries real tears of worship when I think of the overwhelming awesomeness of God and the great sacrifice of His Son for me, and I believe, for you.
For some, both believers and nonbelievers alike, that whole last paragraph causes major dissonance. They want me to parcel myself out; detach my saved, sanctified spirit from my humanity, my culture, and my work.
So I’m back to my question: What should my faith look like? Or…here’s a better question! Since the last major command of Jesus ended with what is generally called “the great commission,” how do I share my faith?
*cue horror music*
Yep! As soon as I start talking/writing about “sharing” my faith, images of street preachers and spitting, sweating, televangelists start dancing in folks’ heads. That’s crossing the line, they say. Don’t force what you believe on me, they say.
And I get it. I understand why people’s radars go off when Christians talk about sharing their faith. Because so many of us, like the aforementioned SCOTUS, have gotten it wrong, wrong, wrong. How so? Well…mostly because we try to share something we aren’t authentically living. Not even a little bit. We say that we are free through Christ but we live bound and chained to our circumstances and excuses. We say that we have “good news” but nothing good is evident in our character. It’s like my daughter singing Michelle Williams’ new song, “When Jesus Says Yes” at the top of her lungs everywhere we go, but hitting and otherwise being mean to her friends at school. #truestory
To quote Sesame Street, “One of these things is not like the other.”
Which brings me to my answer, I think. At least it’s the answer I know I will continuously teach my child. No shade to the street preacher, but the best way for me to share my faith is by living it out loud every day. By being a person of extraordinary integrity and great character. By not just caring for those who are poor and in need, but being willing to sacrifice my comforts for their good. By being transparent about my shortcoming, faults, sins, etc. and being consistently grateful for the grace and mercy extended to me by God and mankind in these areas. By being a real, well-rounded person who can live a faith-full life outside the four walls of the church. By living up to God’s awesome purpose and design for my life.
Don’t get me wrong. Actual words are certainly critical. I’d be out of work and this post wouldn’t exist if they weren’t. But I think, particularly in today’s “put everything and everyone under the microscope” world, the way I live and love are the best segues for sharing a faith without which I’m fairly sure I would not be grounded enough to be and do most of the things I’ve noted with any real consistency.
In the end, living the faith certainly works way better than a bullhorn or television cameras. If nothing else, it makes me a better model for my child who’s always watching me. I choose to live as the quote often attributed to St. Francis of Assisi so profoundly
suggests: “Preach the Gospel at all times. Use words if necessary.”
Tracey Michae'l is a writer and educator based out of the Philadelphia area. She is a wife to William and a mother to a beautiful two-year old little girl. You can find her on the web at www.traceymlewis.com.