I was sweat-soaked and panting during my elliptical machine work-out today when a young woman walked past and flashed me a lovely smile and a thumbs-up. I smiled in return and she was gone. I’m no fabulous specimen of a man, so I had no worries there.
Here’s what had happened a few minutes earlier: Another woman on an elliptical near me asked a man standing in front of her what he was doing for Easter. He answered as you might expect, visiting family and eating ham and so on and so forth. I tuned out of their conversation and thought, What would I say if someone asked me that question? I ran through a series of answers I hoped I would give about going to church, remembering the cross on Good Friday and celebrating Jesus’ resurrection on Sunday. And, of course, gathering with family. As I was thinking about that, I tuned back into their conversation when she said, Well, I know I’m a sinner.
The man responded with some snarky comments about Jesus and the Bible. I watched and listened, but the woman said nothing as the man continued to insult the Lord and His Word.
I thought, Come on lady, say something!, but she didn’t. And then I thought, Stay out of this. This will be trouble. It’s a public place. There’s people everywhere. They’ll throw you out. My mind shifted to the movie Amazing Grace, when William Pitt counseled his old friend William Wilberforce. I would urge caution, Pitt said. Then he added, Oh, to hell with caution.
So I said to the man, loudly enough to be heard, I really don’t think you read the Bible.
The man looked surprised. He said, I used to, just like I used to read comic books.
Pedaling and panting much harder now, I said, Oh wow! Out of the heart, the mouth speaks!
He shouted, There is no God! There’s a super-force! We’ll be judged as good or bad by the force. We’ll be fine if we do good.
I said, No one is good enough to get to God. That’s why Jesus came in the first place. You need to read the Bible and learn what Jesus did. You know what? You’re going to die. We’re all going to die. You’re going to face Jesus! You need to read the Bible.
We went back and forth like that for a bit and when it was over I looked around as I continued working the elliptical and realized everyone was quiet in the fitness center. I thought, Well, I guess I didn’t handle that very well. I’m a lousy evangelist. They’re going to throw me out of here. They’ll never let me back in.
And that’s when the young woman walked by flashing that big smile and a thumbs-up.
Today I set a personal best for speed and distance on the elliptical. Maybe I didn’t respond very well to that man. Still, I’m glad I tried to honor the Lord when the challenge came my way. And I’ll long remember that young woman’s affirming smile and thumbs-up.