“You are the only Christian I know.”
Those words hit me like a slap to the face. They have haunted me for days, weeks. Immediately after hearing those words I began thinking about every conversation, every interaction I had had with this person. How does she perceive Christians based on my actions, my words? How does she see Jesus? Has she seen Jesus? I felt a sense of panic wash over me. I’m not a perfect Christian, not even close! This is a lot of pressure being the only Christian she knows. Then I started thinking about all the other girls on the team that I have been helping coach. How many of them don’t know any other Christian besides me? There was nothing left to do but fall on my knees and cry out to God. There is no way that I can show them Christ and His love, not on my own strength. I needed more of Jesus.
I've been helping coach a Women’s American Football team in Birmingham England for a while now. Even outside of the season, I still meet with a few of the girls on a regular basis. We usually go out for food and chat about different things, usually focusing on the team and how the next year may look. But on this particular evening only one of the girls was able to make it out. We talked about her feelings about the past season and whether she would be able to play the next season because of her injury. I had worked up the courage to ask her if I could pray for healing for her and she accepted but she also doubted that it would work because she doesn’t believe in God. This opened up an opportunity to share with her that God loved her, even if she didn’t believe in Him.
As I shared with her she had more and more questions which led to me being able to share the whole Gospel message with her. We talked about creation, the fall of man, the redemption through Christ and that one-day Jesus would return. She absorbed every word and asked a lot of really great questions. I really felt God speaking to me and guiding me as I spoke with her.
Then she said those words that I will never forget; those words that have caused the passion within me to burn brighter and for me to fall on my face with humility before Christ as I never have before.
“You are the only Christian I know.”
The only Christian she knows! I felt overwhelmed with emotion. It broke my heart to be reminded that there are many people who have no personal contact with other Christians, especially in a country that is supposed to be a “Christian country.” How can they hear the Good News without anyone to tell them? It terrified me because her view on Christians could largely be based off of how I have acted; I questioned everything I had ever done around her. And it filled me with excitement, fear, humility and love. God placed me in her life and her in mine because He loves her dearly and wants her, and the others on this team, to know Him and He was allowing me to be a part of His plan to show them who He is.
In the days and weeks following this conversation I found myself running this conversation over and over in my head. I felt an immense pressure to be better, to show Christ perfectly. I was desperate to share God with these women but also terrified knowing that I am nowhere near perfect and I could think of many times where I hadn’t reflected Christ’s character or love well. It brought me to a different level of humility and reliance on God than ever before. I was seeing my need to rely on God in a fresh light. I was reminded again of my need for His unending grace, wisdom and love. I began bringing this to God and praying for guidance and wisdom; for love that can only come from Him. I am unable to do the work set before me without Him.
Then I noticed something start to change. The pressure that I felt, the burden of being the only Christian in this friend’s life, started to lighten. The more I depended on God and looked to Him for everything the less I felt overwhelmed. I began, like never before, falling on my knees, humbly praying that God would do amazing things and praising and thanking Him that I am able to be a part of the incredible work here. I began to realize that it wasn’t and isn’t about me, it’s about God and the work that He is doing in her heart and the hearts of others, I only need to be obedient to whatever God asks me to do. Before I thought I was fully relying on Him, and I was to a point. But after this conversation and experience I have learned how much more I need to continue to place all things into His hands. He is the One who will call people to Himself and change their hearts, I simply need to love them and even in that, I needed more of God.
This statement, “you are the only Christian I know,” has caused me to think beyond just this girl and the team. It makes me wonder how many Christians are the only Christian someone knows. Do they share Christ with that person? Are they willing to be bold enough to start that conversation and explore faith? Living in the UK has been eye-opening and challenging in many ways, especially in the area of being bold in my faith. I thought I was bold but now I am seeing how afraid I have been. Being reminded that I am the only Christian that someone knows has humbled me and spurred the passion inside me to share God with others with boldness and confidence in Christ.
If you are the only Christian someone meets, what impression are they left with of who Christ is?
About the author
Burdeen Starkey is a missionary with GEM Canada, serving alongside national partners in England's West Midlands region, particularly Birmingham.