Perseverance by Smiley

November 18, 2011

by Maria Fontaine

For many of us, the hardest part of witnessing is breaking the ice. And the next hardest part is persevering for as long as the Lord shows us to, even when someone doesn’t appear to be receptive.

Don’t you find that as you witness to someone, it’s very important to keep your focus on the Lord and on searching to understand that person’s need? If I start to consider what they might think of me, or if they’ll reject what I’m offering, I find myself becoming hesitant. I begin to wonder if the things that are coming to me to say are really the right things to say after all. Am I saying things in the most meaningful way? Am I relating? Am I asking the right questions? Am I listening carefully to the person’s answers?

So, once I sense that the Lord is leading me to witness to someone, I jump right in and work to build a connection, even if it means ignoring their shields of sarcasm or attempts to appear together and in control. It often takes being persistent in a friendly way. Sometimes they don’t initially seem spiritually hungry. Sometimes they don’t appear to be the type who would need deep answers and what I could share to help them. In fact, sometimes they’re not ready to ask any questions at all.

Sometimes the initial reaction to my witness may even seem dismissive or negative or a little antagonistic. But if the Lord has guided me to that person, then I feel that it’s my responsibility to give my best shot to implant a seed of truth in their heart and life. When the situation is appropriate, I try to ask questions to get the ball rolling with the person I’m witnessing to, so that they can then ask me the questions they might have, and I can respond with what the Lord lays on my heart.

I may not always see the results right away, but one thing I’ve learned is that you can’t judge the heart by outward appearances or even initial responses. If I’m convinced that Jesus wants me to reach out to someone, then I know that somehow it will have the impact that the Lord desires, even if I don’t see it.

I want to share a story to illustrate the point that perseverance is often critical in convincing someone that your concern and care for them isn’t just skin deep. So many people in this day and age have lost hope. They need to be convinced that your concern for them is genuine. Enduring some initial verbal rebuffs can be a powerful tool in convincing them that you have something real and that you care. We never really know what thoughts are running through someone’s head and heart. You never know what a little truth mingled with perseverance and genuine concern for another’s soul can have until you try it out.

I watched the sun’s fiery sphere descend in the sky toward the surface of the water on the distant horizon. I fancied myself a poet and that I should be able to put this daily spectacle into verse. Words couldn't capture what I saw. Words were inadequate. It was majestic, and yet to me somehow extremely depressing. It heralded the end of the day, when the realm of darkness once again embraced me. I squatted on the sand, feeling as alone as some shipwrecked sailor on a deserted island, as the golden globe of light slipped further and further into the water like some great solar Titanic, sending out its final flares of colored light in all directions, brightening the sea for a few impressive moments as if hoping for rescue, till with its final gasps it slowly sank beneath the waves. Then it was gone. Twilight hung around for a little while, and then it too was engulfed by darkness.

There was no moon in the sky as yet and the blackness seemed all but complete, except for stars, lots of them, that slowly made themselves visible in the sky. Still, it seemed to me that they were so little and their light was so feeble in the dark gloom. Gloom was a word I found appropriate. I had thought a lot about gloom. Gloomy was the word that I thought best described me. I was a void shrouded in gloom. I was a black hole, a drain hole in my universe, down which all that was joy and happiness disappeared. Dejected, alone, I cursed life and cursed myself. My black clothes reflected my psyche. Blackness engulfed me in its void. I was nothing. No light escaped from this carcass that was me.

I hadn’t always been so morose. I had laughed. I had played. I had even enjoyed some things. That seemed a long time ago. I wasn’t even sure at times that that person had been me. Perhaps it was a dream. What is life? I pondered. What is purpose? Why was I here? “Stupid questions,” the answer came back. “There is nothing. You are nothing. You have no purpose. You are just an evolved mass of cells functioning to sustain a body. Your mind is empty and you have no great destiny. You are a biological freak in a world of other freaks with no discernible purpose other than to function till you die.”

The word truth came to mind. What is truth? Is this sand between my toes truth? Is that water out there that swallowed the sun truth? Is it all meaningless? If it is meaningless, then truth is an abstract, stupid concept. If the material things are all that is truth and if there is nothing more profound to my existence, then I might as well not exist. I will become sand, I thought. Then I will be part of the truth. My body is truth because it can rot into the surroundings. My mind, my thoughts, they are just sparks of electricity that float aimlessly around my brain.

I was depressed. I was really depressed. My conscious thoughts all seemed to be leading to one conclusion: Death was better than life. Death was somehow rational, because then my mind would stop, and how I wished to stop my mind. Life was confusion. In death there would be peace. Well, maybe there would be peace. Anything would be better than confusion. The word truth came to mind again. What the hell is truth, I thought.

“Hello!” a voice broke into my consciousness. Looking up I saw a person, eyes glowing, smile beaming. I resented the intrusion at first, and I think I resented the eyes and smile more. This person was breaking into my confusion, and my inner demons hated it.

“Can we talk?” Smiley asked. Talk! The word reverberated around inside my empty shell of a head, bouncing from one side to the other. I sat there hunched on the sand unable to think of a response.

“You looked bummed,” continued Smiley. “Anything the matter?”

“Everything, and nothing,” I responded, not really knowing where the words came from. Mixed emotions of resentment and curiosity battled inside of me. “I hate your smile,” I involuntarily continued.

“Oh!” Smiley replied. “I will go if you really want me to.”

“Yes,” I said, “I like to be left in my empty misery. Your smile doesn’t fit the mood.” How I loathed myself more than ever at that moment for saying something so stupid. Please have a little persistence I begged in my mind. Well, Smiley had a little, and a little went a long way. We debated about truth and darkness, and lies and light, and many other things into the night.

She wasn’t alone. In my miserable stupor I had only just noticed her earlier, sitting a short distance away with another guy before the sun had left. She’d strolled up to talk with me alone, but her friend had somehow managed to slip quietly into our midst while we were talking. He sat almost respectfully at Smiley’s side like a gentle sentry, not breaking the connection between Smiley and me, almost as if he were somehow guarding it from disruption. He seemed tuned in to what was being said, but not butting in.

A larger group of people sat around a campfire they’d started a little further away to hold the blackness at bay, and some would peer through the darkness at us now and then, yet never tried to pull Smiley and her sentry away from me. It was as though some protective bubble had settled around us.

It took hours, or so it seemed, but I found the truth that night. I found Jesus and His love, and I found that the world and all around me had rhyme and reason. I felt in the first flash of that smile that my search for truth had found its quest fulfilled. But I had to be sure. I had to be convinced. It cost an investment of someone’s time, time I purposely took. If there was truth, it wouldn’t be fully realized in a flash, I figured. And it wasn’t. But like a gradual, incoming tide, it lifted me out of the mire of pointless existence and carried me steadily higher toward the shores of hope.

I don’t think Smiley and her sentry fully realized that they had saved more than just a soul that night. I never met them again, but in case they ever see this, I want them to know that they saved a life on this earth and set it on course to be a help to others. I know the depths that a soul can sink to, but I’ve also found the way out of that pit. My path has crossed many others who were at rock bottom and I’ve been able to help pull them up. Those patient hours defeating my demons with perseverance and truth have paid off big time! Thank you, Smiley.[1]

[1] By Cooper C. (N. B., Canada.), published with permission.