Revelations: So much to learn, so many people to teach me
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BY JENNIFER PREYSS
As a ranging reporter with the Advocate, I go out into the community twice a week and try to find out what's going on around town. Part of this task includes asking the Question of the Day.
You may be acquainted with this question-asking process, but it usually goes something like this:
"Hey, I'm Jennifer with the Victoria Advocate. Would you like to answer the Question of the Day? It's a really easy question, and won't take but a few minutes."
If they agree, I'll write down their answer, then whip out my trusted Canon PowerShot and snap their photo.
When asking the question, I've discovered that some people are more than willing to talk to me. Others, well, they seem to look at me like I'm asking to borrow $500 to buy my dog a pair of designer jeans.
So anyway, I was out ranging the other day, asking the "Question of the Day" at an area McDonald's when I met the friendliest man from Winder, Ga.
Before I could get two words out of my mouth, Georgia Man unleashed his entire life story. In a matter of minutes, I knew he was a truck driver from Georgia, recently married to a Christian woman from Indonesia (whom he met over the Internet and married in her home country), divorced three times, attended a Mennonite Church and only listened to the Bible on CD when he traveled across the country in his tractor trailer.
It wasn't long before he pulled up his Facebook page on the computer and started showing me an Indonesia photo album in exhausting detail.
In other circumstances, I might try to navigate the conversation to a halt, but Georgia Man had a terribly endearing Southern accent that I couldn't resist listening to.
Not that I had a choice. He quite literally didn't cease talking for about 30 minutes.
So, as he's explaining his recent love story to a Christian Indonesian woman who spoke broken English, we started talking about God.
More specifically, we started talking about Christian traditions.
He described some of the Mennonite customs he'd been taught, many of which sounded more Amish than mainstream Christian.
Since I'm not all that familiar with the Mennonite customs, I asked him to educate me.
We talked for a while about how some of the women in the church wear bonnets, and how some of the congregation aren't fans of watching television, using telephones, or listening to most kinds of music, even Christian music.
I was intrigued.
He said not all of the customs are practiced in every Mennonite church, and that he didn't necessarily agree with everything the church taught. And for that reason, I asked him why that particular branch of Christianity was attractive to him. I mean, if he didn't agree with the customs, why continue going to that church?
It's all he knew, he said.
It's not that I don't see a need for different kinds of worship styles, but I guess his comment about only knowing one kind of worship began the spinning of wheels in my head.
Not only was it disconcerting that he wasn't interested in knowing or studying other forms of worship, he didn't see any reason to challenge the church, the Bible, God or himself about why he practiced the way he did.
It took many years to figure out who I was in Christ, and I guess I do that a little more every day. I probably will until my last breath. But it only comes from continuously asking God, "Is this way of living what you say for me to do? Or is this what man says? Or is this what the culture of the church says?"
Talking with Georgia Man reminded me how much I never want to be at a place in my faith where I'll blindly accept what any man, even a religious man, tells me about God, or how to worship Him. And if I attend a Mennonite church, a Baptist church, or wherever, I hope it's because God himself led me there. I hope it's because I had the guts to ask the hard questions about following Him. I hope it's because I'm able to separate the relationship from a stale practice of religion.
As I left McDonald's, I encouraged Georgia Man to be bold enough to fearlessly question his faith because God always has the right answers.
Georgia Man smiled at me in a way that told me he was listening, like I'd unleashed some grand secret about Christianity.
When I got back to the office, I found an email from my McDonald's friend, thanking me for our conversation. But truly, he did me a favor. He reminded me how amazing God is, how different His children are, and how much I have left to learn about it all.
Jennifer Preyss is a re porter for the Victoria Advocate. You can reach her at 361-580-6535 or firstname.lastname@example.org.