Several months ago, Beth Web shared a testimony about how God was working in and through her to be a light to her co-workers. The text of what she shared is below. Please be in prayer for her continued relationship with these women.
* Please note: Names below have been changed to protect privacy.
A couple of weeks ago I met with Matthew and told him some things that were going on with my job, and he asked me to share them with you.
Some of you know, I used to teach part-time in the public schools, but I’ve switched jobs, and four months ago was hired at an organization to help survivors of sexual assault and domestic violence find new places to live.
When I took the job, I didn’t realize that there is a higher percentage of domestic violence in the LGBTQ community, and much of my training early on seemed to really be pushing that agenda. There were lots of training sessions at the beginning. And it was routine to go around the room and for each individual to give an introduction, stating our name and “preferred gender pronoun”– that’s right, our “preferred gender pronoun”. As if it was an optional thing. At first this really made me uncomfortable, and I wrestled with speaking up about it. At one training, two of the individuals, who looked and dressed as women, asked to be referred to as “them” rather than “she”. (The English teacher, as well as the Christian in me, cringed – so now instead of acknowledging someone’s God-given gender, we were going to just use plural pronouns for individuals?)
During another training, one of the vocabulary words was “heternormative”, defined as “having a world view that promotes heterosexuality as the normal or preferred sexual orientation; and that preferably sex should only be had within a marriage relationship.” When I raised my hand and identified that as my belief, the trainer seemed rather shocked. I said that I would be respectful and kind to others holding a different perspective –and she said that would be refreshing, because she’s had other volunteers who identified themselves as Christians come in with a very argumentative and condescending attitude about the subject.
Early on I learned that my supervisor, Tammy, a woman in her early 20’s had just moved in with her lesbian partner; – another coworker that I would be working closely with, Danielle, was married to a Muslim, did not share that faith, and only married him because she had had two kids with him already after they had repeatedly hooked up after nights of heavy drinking. A third co-worker, Michelle, was extremely into New Age beliefs, taught Yoga and had dreams of opening a commune in Goochland. (I’m not kidding.)
I say all of this – just to let you know the environment there. I felt like I had jumped head-first into the world, and didn’t quite know what to make of it.
So, I began to pray on the way to work every day that God would prompt me when to speak, and when to be silent – and that He would begin to work in the lives of my coworkers, as well as our clients. And that I would be faithful to show the love of Christ to these women.
And, around the lunch table and throughout the day, I tried to ask questions and listen – and tried to listen more than I spoke. – Which, for those of you who know me, was not an easy feat.
It didn’t take long before I learned some of their stories. I learned that Tammy, my supervisor, had what she called a “really strict religious background” – and that she had recently decided to read the Bible in a year to see what it said for herself. I asked what translation she was reading – and it was the New King James version. So, we talked about various translations and I bought her an ESV Bible from KingsWay’s Bookshoppe (actually a study Bible I had never heard of before: “The Gospel Translation” Bible with study notes that are, “Produced out of the conviction that the Bible is a unified message of God’s grace culminating in Jesus… a significant new tool to help readers see Christ in all of Scripture, and grace for all of life.”
When I gave Tammy the Bible, she paid me this compliment, she said, “Beth, you are a quality individual.” This coming from a woman who knew I was a Christian, and likely knew my perspective on her sexual orientation and living situation. Now, I’ve joined Tammy in her plan to read the Bible in a year. We haven’t had many conversations about it yet – and I’m mostly trying to let her bring up the subject – but I’m praying the Lord will use His living and active Word to bring her to Himself. (The only thing she’s said so far about her reading was that she is surprised that the Wise Men get so little attention in the Bible, given how big a deal they seem to be in Christmas plays and nativity sets.)
I haven’t done this all perfectly – for one, when I first heard that Tammy wanted to the read through the Bible – my initial reaction was wondering what book I should buy to help explain the gospel to her…you know, More than a Carpenter, the Case for Christ, Mere Christianity – then I had the thought, “Oh, wait, if the Bible is living and active, maybe I could just trust that God would actually use His Word to reveal Himself to her.”
And, I’ve had other bumps along the way – a couple of weeks ago, I asked Michelle (who believes New Age stuff) to lunch. I had specifically wanted to get to know Michelle–because we just really hit it off personality-wise, we’ve had had snippets of good conversations around the office, and I had learned that Michelle had gone to a private Christian high school and had accepted Christ at one point. She no longer identifies as a Christian, and I was curious about her story.
On the day of our lunch, as we were heading out the door she mentioned that the culture of the office was such that “people don’t usually go to lunch together here” – and that she felt kind of awkward. I mentioned we didn’t have to go – and could certainly bring back lunch, but she said no, and we went, and the conversation was …. really stilted, and forced – and I wondered if she thought I had some kind of agenda to convert her, and I came away pretty discouraged.
But then about a week later, Michelle mentioned that she was going to the Folk Festival held in Richmond – and I met up with her there. So, the lunch wasn’t the disaster I had envisioned.
The thing is, these women are becoming my friends. I disagree about significant issues with them – and hopefully, over time we’ll be able to respectfully and kindly discuss some of those issues. And I’m praying God will use me to share Jesus with each of them. But, I want to keep the love and grace of Christ at the forefront of my interactions with them…not all of the differences Christians have with non-Christians. Jesus Himself said he didn’t come to condemn the world, but that the world might be saved through Him. If He was a friend to sinners, shouldn’t I be a friend first and foremost?
So I’m trying to major on the majors. Not stumble over the fact that – there are people who don’t believe the Bible…and they act like people who don’t hold to Biblical values. That makes sense, right? Why do we Christians keep expecting non-Christians to live according to Biblical values, and come across as angry and condescending to them when they don’t share our perspective?
I know that God has a sphere of influence for all of us. Whether it’s a neighbor, coworker, or friend from school…if you don’t have someone that comes to mind that you are praying for, I’d encourage you to ask God for somebody.
Tammy, Michelle, and Danielle are on my mind a lot. (By the way, I don’t know Danielle as well yet, but I do know that her Mom and Grandma go to church regularly.) And what I realized is that each of them at one point or another had Christians in their life – Christians who even today might still be praying for their salvation.
I have non-Christians in my family that I’m praying for and asking that God would bring a Christian friend to them. I’m pretty humbled that the Lord might be using me in these women’s lives to be an answer for someone else’s prayer.
Regardless of the outcome though, I’m grateful to have these women in my lives as friends, and even more grateful that maybe one day God might use me in their journey of coming to know Jesus as their Savior and Lord.