There are all kinds of conversations that we have with all kinds of people. But every once in a while, the discussion gets serious, and we discover it’s one that really matters. Just today, I was surprised to find my relatively normal, everyday small talk heading down a road that I did not expect. Especially when I’m not quite ready for it, like today, a passionate confession bubbles up and truly takes me by surprise.
But it is not my end of the conversation that shocked me today. It’s a story that I have long grown into, a history that I’ve learned I have been a part of. No, it was not the words that spilled from my mouth that made me step back for a moment in wonder. It was the stone-faced anger that greeted the very words which I understood to offer acceptance, comfort, and hope.
We began to talk about our children. From there, we talked about our expectations and dreams for these miraculous gifts from God. But then, our failures and disappointments naturally surfaced. And here our roads began to part. She politely offered the parenting advice that she has been listening to for years. I agreed and admitted even more of the problems that lurk just under the surface. Uncomfortably, she pulled out the Bible and began pointing to examples of righteousness that we Christians should follow. Excitedly, I flipped to the part of Christ’s story where he dies at the right time, for a sinner like me.
And she just stood there, almost angry that I would suggest this righteousness came from someone else. Of course, God empowered us to do good things, she said, but it was up to me to follow through. Of course, Jesus showed us a good right way to live, and if I couldn’t follow there was something deeply wrong with me personally.
She just stood there.
What a wonderful and terrible conversation I had today. It was the simple Gospel that shatters the complexity that tangles me up inside. It is such a foundational part of every bit of my day—my happiness and my sorrow, my longing and hopefulness—because everything I am is cast on One who saved me. My failure, my ignorance, my evil, my sin: it has been destroyed in an ultimate sacrifice. My ability, my faithfulness, my following, my good: it has been gifted to me by an eternal restoration. Everything I am comes from the outside, yet I claim it as my own.
But to hold on tightly to yourself, your own right, your own good, changes the Gospel. Somehow, she has to assure herself that she chooses well. Somehow, she has to count on her own heart to be in the right. Somehow, she has to resist a word that comes from the outside to shatter every complexity that tangles her up inside.
My prayer is that this was not our last conversation. It’s a story that she will also grow into, a history that she has been a part of, whether she knows it or not. There are all kinds of conversations with all kinds of people, but the ones that matter most speak acceptance, comfort, and hope in Jesus Christ alone.