The words I never want to hear again
By Chris Thompson
My lunch break was scheduled at 12:30 sharp everyday. Of the 14 of us in the office performing temp work for a three-month span in the late part of 2014, only Cassandra and I would share the break room together until 1pm. It was evident from day one that we didn’t have much in common. Here I am, a father of four trying desperately to scrape up enough coin to pay the electric bill, keep the car insurance up-to-date, and buy the next school book from the student store at Riverside City College for my daughter. Here Cassandra is, planning her next downtown Friday-night bar crawl before noon on Tuesday, dumping two consecutive paychecks on a designer handbag, and detailing the life and times of the numerous men in and out of her home. You couldn’t pick two more different people to shove in an over-sized broom closet to make small talk over my pile of leftovers and her $4 bottle of water.
Week after week we lunched together, and most of our chatter was one sided. Cassandra would start in on some story about somebody who did something to someone she knows, and I would listen and occasionally utter a noise that made it sound as if I was paying attention. Most of the time I was poking a plastic fork at some chicken and simply re-energizing for the afternoon. Then, out of nowhere, Cassandra asked me a question that would lead to a statement that would open my eyes to a glaring opportunity that I’d missed.
She said, “So, what do you do when you’re not at work or being a dad?” Simple enough question I thought. “I’m a theology major and I publish a newspaper,” I said. I could hear the gears turning as her face was showing the evidence that she was trying to figure out the definition of “theology.” To save her what seemed to be an embarrassing question, I said, “-Theo meaning God, and -ology, meaning ‘the study of.’” I went on to tell her that I had my Master of Arts in Pastoral Counseling and I would finish my Master of Divinity degree in the summer of 2015. I pulled out the last issue of Life in His Hands Christian Newspaper from my bag and handed her a copy. It was the very next moment that stopped my heart cold.
Without missing a beat she simply said the eight words that are, by far, the worst thing a co-worker has ever said to me. “I didn’t take you as the religious type,” she exclaimed as she glanced away from the newspaper in the middle of the folding table and finished a text on her jewel case protected iPhone. “So, you go to church a lot?” she continued . . .
I was floored. For the last 6-weeks I had kept to myself, focused on my job, and did what I could to make the best of the temp work I had been offered. I drove to work, punched in, punched out, and drove home. I smiled when I had to, filled out forms when I needed to, and became one of the best employees who was about to have his job assignment end. But, in less than a minute, God showed me, through the simple words of someone so full of this world, that I missed an opportunity to minister.
Looking back, I guess I thought that my withdrawal from the worldly actions of a staff of non-believers would be enough for me to stand out. Little did I realize at the time that I was hiding His light by the fact that I wasn’t sharing the Light. How many more chances would I ever get to tell Cassandra about Jesus? Who would be the next person in her life to share the Gospel with her if is wasn’t me? What if Christ came back tomorrow and I looked around heaven and didn’t see her?
It’s a question I still struggle with. Within a week my assignment ended. No more half-hour lunch breaks with a lost soul so blatantly placed right in front of me. No more chances to tell her how much Jesus loves her. I blew it. I lost this one. With sorrowful remorse I think back and realize that God taught me a lesson to always let His light shine, but more than that, to hold it high. To actually stand and proclaim Christ’s love for His children is what I am supposed to do, and I have made a pledge to recognize all opportunities.
I hope you can do me a favor. Wherever you are; proclaim Christ. Whoever you are around; tell them about Jesus. Whenever you breath; let your exhale be to His glory. And if you ever see Cassandra, tell her that Chris is so sorry he missed the opportunity to tell her just how much Jesus loves her.