Have you ever wondered why God sent a certain person into your life? Did you try to make sense out of the struggle you had to relate to him, only to discover that you really could not craft a satisfactory explanation? Have you met someone who just didn’t fit comfortably with the rest of your life? Most of us have had these seemingly disconnected, confusing encounters. You try to make these people fit some familiar pattern to help you understand them, but they don’t really match any of your existing categories. Instead, they grate against you, challenging your assumptions, pushing you into uncomfortable territory.
Our life in the Czech Republic has brought some of these uncomfortable, ill-fitting sorts of encounters to us. We have met people that make us uncomfortable. One is a blind man who lives in a town about 45 minutes away from Zlín. He is a believer, but has no home church in his town. He lives with only his guide dog for a companion. His mother is in a state institution and no longer recognizes him when he visits her. Yet, he tells us that he relishes the solitude, even the loneliness, because he is with God in those times. This does not “compute”.
We have met several people here who seem eager to spend time with us, in spite of the spiritual gulf between us. They are very comfortable hanging around with us, and we’re very grateful for these non-believing Czech friends. The uncomfortable part is that many of them are kinder, more generous, and more willing to sacrifice for others than we are. Ouch!
Last month a couple of Jehovah’s Witnesses came to our door offering us their literature and an English Bible. We let them in and spoke to them briefly in our living room. After a few minutes of conversation about why it is crucial to our salvation that Jesus is the second person of the Trinity, we offered to pray for them. Their strained faces and nervous body language made it clear that they were uncomfortable even with that. As they departed, we wished for God to bless them, as in our hearts we mourned over their blindness. Most sources to which we have access claim that the Jehovah’s Witnesses have between 15,000 and 30,000 followers here; that makes them one of the largest religious groups in this country. How has this cult made such an impact here when good evangelical churches are struggling on so many levels?
We don’t have good answers to the questions these encounters raise. We don’t always like the issues or feelings that they raise in our hearts. But we believe that our God is shaping us with these sandpaper events – for our good, to reflect him better.