I will accept anyone’s friend request on facebook. I don’t discriminate. I don’t filter out weird people or hate on anyone that has a unibrow, like me. I see facebook as a cool chance to connect with readers of this site. So if you ask me to be your friend, please know I am going to accept that offer. (Let’s do it. Let’s be friends.)
But I never accept friend suggestions. If you’ve never used facebook, a friend suggestion is a feature where you can send a note to someone and essentially say, “I think you should be friends with this other person.” You get the other person’s name and a little photo of them. If you choose to accept it, then you send that suggested person a friend request.
It’s meant to be a neat little way to connect people, but I’ve started to get some random suggestions. Someone will send me a suggestion like, “Tammy Smith, Red Bluff High School.” I’ll look at it, quickly realize that I don’t know Tammy Smith and think, “If I accept this friend suggestion, Tammy Smith, a high school sophomore, is going to get a random friend request from a complete stranger, that happens to be a 33-year old married man, living in the suburbs of Atlanta with his two kids, who doesn’t even use his full name on facebook and kind of has a weird smirk in his photo.” Wow, the only thing missing from my induction into the creepy hall of fame is perhaps a mustache and a scar running down my cheek from a knife fight I got into behind a dumpster at a truck stop on the New Jersey Turnpike.
That’s a completely silly thought, but while thinking about that the other day at 5:00 in the morning, I realized that I approach witnessing to people about God in a pretty similar fashion. (I know, whoa, did he just leap from the New Jersey Turnpike knife fight story to witnessing to people about the everlasting love of Jesus Christ? Yes, yes I did.)
The truth is that sometimes I drop Jesus into someone’s lap like I’m sending a random friend suggestion on facebook. I don’t really tell them much about Him. I don’t really invest in the life of the person I’m talking too. I don’t even really listen to their story. I’ve just rushed to the end of my agenda and essentially said, “Yeah, yeah, regardless of what’s going on with you and your whole situation, I’d like to send you this friend suggestion to connect with Jesus. Here you go, vaya con dios stranger.”
It’s kind of like a Jesus drive by, me just spraying folks with the name of Christ and hoping it sticks. I don’t think that’s a particularly good thing. I can’t imagine that’s what God had in mind when He gave us the great commission. So what can we do to change that? How do we not just “friend suggestion” Jesus?
I don’t know. I’m all out of silver bullets, and to be honest there are about 3700 other blogs that have better advice about sharing your faith. But I have started to do something differently in the last few months. I’ve started to ask people questions I genuinely want answers to. Instead of asking a question and then forcing the conversation back into my framework regardless of their answer, I’ve tried to just listen and let people talk and remain engaged in what they have to say. The more I’ve done that, the more I’ve been amazed at how willing people are to open up when you actually listen. And sometimes, when I feel like God is cool with it, I get to ask my favorite question of all, “Who is carrying all that with you?”
Because everyone has an “all that.” Whether you’re going through a divorce or the most wildly successful season of work in your life, everyone has an “all that” they’re carrying. (Sometimes success is the most crushing “all that” you can face because what you thought would make things perfect just isn’t and that’s pretty terrifying.) 99 out of 100 times the answer to that question is “no one.” One woman told me she didn’t want to burden her happy friends with her sadness so she keeps it hidden. One man told me he wasn’t a guy’s guy and since he didn’t understand football it was hard for him to form relationships with other guys.
Time after time, the answer to the question “Who is carrying all that with you” comes back as “no one.”
But it’s not one of those questions you can ask and then disappear as soon as you’ve friend suggested Jesus. You have to be willing to carry the “all that” with the person you’re talking with. You can’t fade into the weeds of life like dissolving into the sea of profiles of facebook. That’s why witnessing is hard. That’s why it’s easier to friend suggest Jesus to strangers than it is to introduce your friend Jesus to someone.
It’s not right, but I think that’s why it happens. And I’m tired of it happening with me.