Therearefewmoments in my life that I re- member as vividly as my first and only 400 m race. There I stood in the outside
lane, a natural sprinter, completely
confident that I would do fine.
I glanced back at the other runners in their staggered starting
positions and thought to myself,
Wow! Look at the head start I have on
I bolted out to an impressive
lead, but after 140 m my confidence
I finished last. Dead last. So far
last I was delaying the start of the
Everyone who knows me will tell
you math is not my “gift,” and that
day it was painfully obvious I did
not consider the semicircles at the
ends of the track, how they influence the length of the lane and why
this race had staggered starts.
But math wasn’t my real issue.
Before the starting gun even sounded, it was my sense of my own advantage that really did me in.
Personal faith doesn’t start
from the same place
Five years ago, I realized the same
issue was influencing how I shared
I already knew 1 Peter 3: 15 calls
Christians to always be ready to
explain why we are confident in our
beliefs to everyone who asks (
commonly referred to as “apologetics”
in academic circles).
When I discussed personal faith,
I believed my Bible knowledge,
years of church attendance and
academic credentials gave me a
head start over others.
But then Renée caught up to me.
I didn’t even see her coming.
“I haven’t really read the Bible,”
she said, “but I believe God is real.”
“That’s good,” I said, “but you
need to read the Bible if you want
to know God. That’s where you
have to start!”
She smiled and said confidently,
“No I don’t. I know He’s real.”
Soon Rachel was quickly on my
heels. She had just returned from a
summer of street ministry and
outreach in Chicago.
“It was so rewarding just ‘being’
Jesus,” she gushed. “He never
judged anyone. He never raised His
voice. He just loved everyone.”
I smiled and asked, “What is your
She shrugged her shoulders,
somewhat puzzled by my question.
“I don’t know. I don’t read those
I countered, “But you can’t be Jesus
unless you have read about Jesus.
That’s where you have to start!”
I barely caught a glimpse of
Brenda as she passed me in the race
of faith. I had joined my Nana for
the Sunday afternoon church ser-
vice at the seniors’ home, where
Brenda faithfully showered the
residents with physical touch,
personal attention and the message
that God loved them.
Brenda also showered them with
an overwhelming number of Bible
verses so haphazardly strung together that I wondered, How can she be
so careless with God’s Word? I don’t
think she even studied or prepared!
Then she landed on 1 Corinthians
13, immediately silencing my inner
debate with this simple truth. “I may
not be the most eloquent of speakers, I could be more knowledgeable,
and perhaps be more prepared, but
I’ve got love for these people, and
Rethinking how we share our
faith in a changing world
MY FAITH STORY?
BY JENNIFER M. SHEPHERD