Last Saturday I invited a total stranger to my book signing. It’s never been easy for me to promote my book or myself. I love what I do and it’s fun to talk about, but it can be an awkward conversation starter.
“Oh you’re a writer, what have you published?”
“I’m working on a novel but I recently published a family Advent devotional.” This is usually followed by a blank gaze because I just used two words that aren’t in most people’s vocabulary, Advent and devotional. Even if people do know what that is, I get a lot of assumptions that I mostly do religious writing, which actually isn’t the case.
But last Saturday was different. I was standing in line at Sears, to return some clothes I had bought from Lands End. (Sadly, the argyle sweater had to go back) and ended up chatting with a lovely woman who was also standing in line. We chatted about how we love Lands End clothing and how easy they make returns and how the quality is so wonderful. Which led to me mentioning the possibility of my mother and I wearing the same thing to church. (We both shop at Lands End). She asked what church I attended. I told her where, she said she knew of it. She’d attended seminary with my pastor. Now she’s an Episcopal priest. Then we discussed faith for a while, as well as my father’s midlife career change from chemical engineer to pastor. Then I said to her. “You know, if you’re interested, I have a book signing at the Moravian Book Shop on Main Street this Saturday for my family Advent devotional.” Her eyes lit up.
“You are a published author? I have a friend who writes about Advent.”
“Advent was an important part of my life growing up and Christmas is one my favorite times of year.”
“Oh, mine too. I just love Christmas and Christmas carols.” Soon we were discussing the beautiful theology of Christmas carols and holding up the very tolerant check out clerk who said she was just glad that Lands End was facilitating such wonderful new opportunities for connection. I told her they would be well represented next weekend at my book signing when I wear my favorite Lands End dress.
While promoting myself like that is usually difficult for me, the whole interchange flowed so naturally. When I told my mother about it later she said, “That’s how easy it should be to share the gospel.” She was right. The way the conversation progressed to my writing (though in this case also to my faith, by association), is how easy it should be to share my faith. But it isn’t. Sometimes I want so much not to offend or repel people but I just don’t bring it up. My faith is a crucial part of who I am, but I know it doesn’t make sense to some people. A lot of people. I’ve gotten used to people not getting it.
My dad can share his faith with anyone, anywhere. He has managed to meet Christians in the strangest of places, including while traveling in Indonesia (which at the time was 90% Muslim) and while riding in a taxi into the center of London. He shares the gospel with waitresses, shop clerks, and bus drivers.
Why can’t it be this easy for me? It’s not awkward to say that I go to church. That’s something that people understand. What why is it difficult to casually bring up in conversation that I’m a follower of Jesus?
So as we head into Advent this year, sure I’m excited to promote my book, but I’m also praying for opportunities to share why I love this time of year. It can be a dark depressed time for many people, but for me it is a time of light and hope. I want to be able to share that with others.
I encourage you to make a point to share light and hope with those around you this Christmas season. You never know when some stranger you meet in the checkout line may need to know about it.