Faith Stories: Let God Do the Talking
“For I am not ashamed of the gospel: for it is the power of God unto salvation to everyone that believeth; the Jew first, and also the Greek. For therein is revealed a righteousness of God from faith unto faith: as it is written, but the righteous shall live by faith.” Romans 1: 17-18 ASV
I have never considered myself to be evangelical, as to do so risks confrontation and that is just not in me.
Another rule I assigned to simple living is to not engage in conversation with anyone seated next to me on a long flight. Why chance it? Some people don’t know when to stop conversation. You are captive, and what does it matter anyway with a complete stranger you are not likely to encounter again?
For some reason, I have never been very good at following this rule and possibly a few others. In the process, I have met some of the most fascinating people, from a Frank Sinatra impersonator to the CFO of a major hotel chain. I was even invited to stay as a VIP Guest in his 4-star hotel on future business travels. The one passenger I recall with total clarity 30 years later is the self-proclaimed atheist traveling alone.
She boarded the plane late, and the door closed immediately behind her. The center seat was open, and I had the window seat as usual. She politely asked if she may sit next to me as she fastened her seat belt, still breathing heavily from her run to catch a nearly missed flight.
She introduced herself as Ruth Rosenstein; I was merely David, no need to disclose more than that. She said, “I’m Jewish. I guess that is why I worry about everything. I was so worried about making my flight and I almost missed it anyway!”
Ms. Rosenstein was on her way home from a Mothers Against Drunk Drivers Convention. She had been a keynote speaker as she often was. She told me about the fateful night her son was heading home from college, following his girlfriend, when she got a flat tire. He stopped to change her tire and was struck and killed by a drunk driver. Her pain was raw and real, and she wept as if it had happened yesterday, but it had been years. I wondered how many times she had told this story. How many times she had re-lived this pain in such detail?
As I do, I searched for words to comfort her, but clearly I had none. I mentioned God and faith, and it sounded like a canned platitude coming from a young man who knew little of either at the time.
She bristled and said, “I am an atheist. I don’t believe in God!”
Out of nowhere, not of me, I proclaim with certainty, “YES YOU DO!”
She angrily said, “No I don’t. Why would you say that when I just told you that I am an atheist and don’t believe in God?”
I said, “Well, you sat down next to me and within 30 seconds you were telling me that you are Jewish. I don’t know any Jews who do not believe in God. So which is it?”
She sobbed and told me that she did believe in God, but she was just so lost and angry. I told her that was okay, and she spoke of her pain as I listened. Our plane gently touched down. She looked into my eyes and we were both tearful but smiling. She hugged me and thanked me. I was certain she heard what she needed to hear as I said nothing further.
It was not of me, but through me. It doesn’t matter if we don’t know what to say. Sometimes it is okay if we just listen and let God do the talking.