LIVING AS APPRENTICE
He was controlling and sometimes rude verging on crude, and I tried to stay out of his way. However, we served together on a statewide literacy board which met once a month. One day during lunch Jim was quite vocal about his struggles and depression. He eagerly shared with me his fascination with a song by Pink Floyd that likened human existence to a bunch of worms living in a can, tromping all over each other in a fight to get to the top and escape the can. He said that image described his life experience perfectly. I was horrified by his dark and desperate view of life.
At another meeting, as he shared his “glass – totally – empty” view of life, I got up my nerve and said I disagreed with him. I told him about the view God has of each of us and of the world he created. I suggested that he read the first three chapters of Genesis. He grimaced.
Several months later, he came to the meeting with a huge smile on his face, which was highly unusual. He told me that recently he had been hiding from life on the couch in a state of depression, when my suggestion to read the Bible came to his mind. He said, “I decided that I couldn’t feel worse, so I tried it.” I nodded in total shock. He reported that he began with Genesis and read through the entire Bible – and he had met God. As he talked, I was reminded of Jacob wrestling with and then yielding to God. I was stunned by his softened heart.
As the next few months went by, the chatter among the board members became, “What’s going on with Jim? He has totally changed!” Finally Jim told his story to the whole group. He described changes he was making in his marriage, including respecting his wife more and spending more time with his family. He talked about new attitudes about his business ethics and changed policies regarding treatment of the employees at his manufacturing company. His vision for his purpose in life now matched his new commitment to Jesus. Jim was still Jim, but, as Richard Foster likes to say, he was more of the Jim he had been created to be. Light had come into his darkness.
Sometime later Jim brought me a photo he had taken, a gorgeous, beautifully framed, 24” x 18” photograph of Lake Michigan at sunrise. Through tears he explained that it was a thank you for being willing to share my hope with him when he was at his lowest – a hope that he now also shares with others.
That was my one of my early ventures into what Peter recommends (and demonstrated): “Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have” (I Peter 3:15). As my faith journey continued, I began to understand that what James Bryan Smith says in the Apprentice Series is true, “[People] don’t want a lengthy explanation about authority of the Bible or why the Muslims are wrong. They just want to know what happened to you, how you got caught up in a new story with a new set of practices. People don’t want our sermons. They want our stories. They want to know the reason for our hope. I suggest that we each take time to think about our story. How would you share your hope to another? What experience with Jesus would you be ready to talk about?