“Sanctify the Lord God in your hearts: and be ready always to give…a reason of the hope that is in you with meekness and fear.” (1 Peter 3:15)
Call it “our limited exposure.” Or perhaps “our protected environment.” Maybe “our inexperience.” It might even be labeled “our hillbilly ignorance.” Call it whatever you like, but it was nothing of which one should be ashamed. The truth of the matter was, that it was merely a lack of understanding or exposure. It was simply something that was yet to be learned.
As we were growing up, if we came upon something we had never done or known about before my daddy used to always say, “Well, you’ll never learn any younger.” What a depth of truth in that simple statement! It was his challenge to put away or fears, put away our excuses, admit our ignorance or inexperience, but set to work to change it.
The incident I am recalling was one involving my oldest sister. She has lived in Chicago now more that fifty years. But at that time she had been there only a short while. It was approaching the season we are right now entering. She had gone into work and on the way up in the elevator she noticed that one of her co-workers had a little dark smudge on her face. Not wanting her to be embarrassed later in the day, my sister discreetly called it to her attention. In a very curt manner her co-worker responded, “It’s Ash Wednesday!” and stepped out of the elevator in a real huff as if she had been majorly offended.
Three thoughts immediately come to my mind: “Well, you’ll never learn any younger!” and “What an opportunity to share something of your faith with another!” (on both my sister’s part as well as the offended co-worker’s part) and “I wonder how many similar opportunities you and I let slip by.”
Unbeknownst to my sister’s co-worker, unlike Chicago, my sister grew up in an area where the majority of folks hardly knew what a Catholic was. There were perhaps three Catholic churches in the entire county that had over 170 Baptist churches. Then only Catholic church that I was really aware of growing up was located in the county seat and up until my high school years it actually had its own school. So we had virtually no exposure to Catholics and their beliefs.
What a wonderful lead in that little black smudge could have been share how all of us have sinned and are in need of a savior. What a natural privilege to point out that the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.
“Oh the smudge! I had almost forgotten. My priest deliberately put it there this morning! I went by church before I came into work today. It is my reminder that I am made of dust and will one day return to dust. It reminds me that the Bible says that it is appointed unto man once to die, and then comes the judgement. So it also reminds me that I need to turn away from sin and be faithful to the Gospel. It reminds me that Christ died once for all, the just for the unjust, that he might bring us to God. It reminds me that if I confess my sin, He is faithful and just to forgive my sin and cleanse me from all unrighteousness.
“That one little black smudge on my face reminds me that there are all kinds of ugly black sins in my life hidden under the surface, and that for the next forty-six days until we Celebrate Easter and what Christ did for us by dying on the Cross, I need to really focus in on those sins, ask God to forgive me and seeks Him to help me to live differently. I needed to be a witness of my risen Savior. Thanks for helping me remember what it’s all about!”
“By the way, do you have a living relationship with Jesus Christ like that?”
Instead of my sister walking away somewhat embarrassed that shes had even brought it up, she could have walked away having heard a sincere, spontaneous presentation of the Gospel. When it comes to witnessing, the devil would have us believe that we don’t know how. But as my daddy would say, “You’ll never learn any younger!” How many similar opportunities are you and I passing up? When’s the last time you shared the Gospel with someone? Have you ever shared a witness? March 6th is Ash Wednesday this year. Why not ask God that between March 6th and Easter Sunday April 21st he would help you to not only be sensitive to a chance but to actually help you to share the Good News with someone who needs to hear it!
You’ll never learn any younger!”