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Ordinary People

Ordinary People

May 9, 2019

God uses ordinary people like you and me to star in extraordinary “God stories”-real-life narratives of purpose and influence.- Pam Tebow

Vividly I remember the day she walked into our office. Clear blue eyes and auburn hair created a beautiful backdrop for her dazzling smile. Everything about her exuded warmth and friendliness. I felt sure we would get along great, until she began to speak.

From that very first day, Nancy spoke of her faith in God and the church she attended. Inwardly, I rolled my eyes and decided to keep my distance. Although only a senior at the university, I had already encountered far too many people like her. Her religion held no interest for me.

Growing up as an unbeliever seemed abnormal to most of the people I knew. My christian friends struggled to understand how someone could choose to not attend church. One went so far as to tell me I would never go to heaven.

To be honest, I found their attitudes a bit hypocritical. I partied with these same friends every weekend. I could see only one difference between their lives and mine. On Sundays, they rose early to attend church while I slept late. If any other differences existed, they remained invisible to me. For years I perceived religion as a set of rules without any benefits.

Without a doubt, this is why I chose to avoid my new coworker. However, in spite of myself, I found her difficult to ignore. Her easy laugh and joyful countenance contrasted sharply with my own lackluster spirit.

My father had raised me to believe success comes with hard work. For a time this formula held true. But during my studies at the university I learned I could not control everything. I encountered professors whom I couldn’t please, no matter how hard I tried. I experienced the painful disloyalty of trusted friends. Perhaps the most difficult lesson of all: I learned I couldn’t make someone fall in love with me, let alone stay in love with me.

Without God, suffering has no value and escaping it feels impossible. Not yet 22 years old, I had become completely disillusioned with life. In fact, a few months prior to Nancy’s arrival, I offered my first real prayer to God.

With complete honesty, I cried out to Him, “Do you even exist? If you do, I want to know you. And I want to know why you created me. Is there anything more to this life than suffering?”

In spite of this prayer, I remained cynical of Nancy’s proclamations of faith. But I did watch her. Disciplined with her time, she respected our work schedule and met her deadlines. She refused to lie, even for our boss. Speaking positively and respectfully of others, she never engaged in gossip. Although she laughed easily (she loved puns), she never laughed at racial or sexual jokes.

She possessed so many admirable qualities. Finally, her unwavering joy prompted me to ask her, “How can you be so happy all the time?” When she responded her joy came from her relationship with Jesus, I felt hope for the first time in months.

As we talked, she invited me to visit her church. Nancy’s group had begun studying the gospel of Mark. When I read the teachings of Jesus, my reaction mirrored the guards who said:

“No one ever spoke the way this man does.” (John 7:46)

Until this time, my only knowledge of Jesus consisted of the cradle and the cross. Eagerly I began learning the rest of His story.

I became a follower of Jesus thirty-seven years ago. God not only showed me He exists, He gave purpose to my life. He even gave meaning to suffering as He used it to build my character and faith. Most surprising to me, some of my coworkers now claim to see a joyful and optimistic spirit in me.

God through His grace made all this possible. But He used the ordinary life of my coworker to open my eyes to Him. I can’t help but think of Peter and John:

When they saw the courage of Peter and John and realized that they were unschooled, ordinary men, they were astonished and they took note that these men had been with Jesus. (Acts 4:13 NIV)

I will be eternally grateful to Nancy and her courage to live out her faith in front of my skeptical eyes. She taught me:

When we have the courage to walk by faith, others will note we have walked with Jesus.

As I continue down the road, I pray for the courage to walk by faith in all of my ordinary days. Someone who needs Jesus may be watching. Wherever you are in your journey, I pray the same for you.

I originally wrote this post in french for my dear friend Armelle Neboit. Living just outside of Paris, her blog, Job de Cœur, inspires us to fully appreciate and enjoy our professional lives.

Ordinary People

May 9, 2019

Ordinary People

God uses ordinary people like you and me to star in extraordinary “God stories”-real-life narratives of purpose and influence.- Pam Tebow

Vividly I remember the day she walked into our office. Clear blue eyes and auburn hair created a beautiful backdrop for her dazzling smile. Everything about her exuded warmth and friendliness. I felt sure we would get along great, until she began to speak.

From that very first day, Nancy spoke of her faith in God and the church she attended. Inwardly, I rolled my eyes and decided to keep my distance. Although only a senior at the university, I had already encountered far too many people like her. Her religion held no interest for me.

Growing up as an unbeliever seemed abnormal to most of the people I knew. My christian friends struggled to understand how someone could choose to not attend church. One went so far as to tell me I would never go to heaven.

To be honest, I found their attitudes a bit hypocritical. I partied with these same friends every weekend. I could see only one difference between their lives and mine. On Sundays, they rose early to attend church while I slept late. If any other differences existed, they remained invisible to me. For years I perceived religion as a set of rules without any benefits.

Without a doubt, this is why I chose to avoid my new coworker. However, in spite of myself, I found her difficult to ignore. Her easy laugh and joyful countenance contrasted sharply with my own lackluster spirit.

My father had raised me to believe success comes with hard work. For a time this formula held true. But during my studies at the university I learned I could not control everything. I encountered professors whom I couldn’t please, no matter how hard I tried. I experienced the painful disloyalty of trusted friends. Perhaps the most difficult lesson of all: I learned I couldn’t make someone fall in love with me, let alone stay in love with me.

Without God, suffering has no value and escaping it feels impossible. Not yet 22 years old, I had become completely disillusioned with life. In fact, a few months prior to Nancy’s arrival, I offered my first real prayer to God.

With complete honesty, I cried out to Him, “Do you even exist? If you do, I want to know you. And I want to know why you created me. Is there anything more to this life than suffering?”

In spite of this prayer, I remained cynical of Nancy’s proclamations of faith. But I did watch her. Disciplined with her time, she respected our work schedule and met her deadlines. She refused to lie, even for our boss. Speaking positively and respectfully of others, she never engaged in gossip. Although she laughed easily (she loved puns), she never laughed at racial or sexual jokes.

She possessed so many admirable qualities. Finally, her unwavering joy prompted me to ask her, “How can you be so happy all the time?” When she responded her joy came from her relationship with Jesus, I felt hope for the first time in months.

As we talked, she invited me to visit her church. Nancy’s group had begun studying the gospel of Mark. When I read the teachings of Jesus, my reaction mirrored the guards who said:

“No one ever spoke the way this man does.” (John 7:46)

Until this time, my only knowledge of Jesus consisted of the cradle and the cross. Eagerly I began learning the rest of His story.

I became a follower of Jesus thirty-seven years ago. God not only showed me He exists, He gave purpose to my life. He even gave meaning to suffering as He used it to build my character and faith. Most surprising to me, some of my coworkers now claim to see a joyful and optimistic spirit in me.

God through His grace made all this possible. But He used the ordinary life of my coworker to open my eyes to Him. I can’t help but think of Peter and John:

When they saw the courage of Peter and John and realized that they were unschooled, ordinary men, they were astonished and they took note that these men had been with Jesus. (Acts 4:13 NIV)

I will be eternally grateful to Nancy and her courage to live out her faith in front of my skeptical eyes. She taught me:

When we have the courage to walk by faith, others will note we have walked with Jesus.

As I continue down the road, I pray for the courage to walk by faith in all of my ordinary days. Someone who needs Jesus may be watching. Wherever you are in your journey, I pray the same for you.

I originally wrote this post in french for my dear friend Armelle Neboit. Living just outside of Paris, her blog, Job de Cœur, inspires us to fully appreciate and enjoy our professional lives.

4 Comments

  1. Charla on May 17, 2019 at 7:14 PM

    Shirley. YOUR story is endearing, friend. Thank God for your Nancy, huh? Thank God for Jesus in Nancy. Your post flows with truth and inspires me to press on 🙂

    • Shirley Desmond Jackson on June 4, 2019 at 7:12 AM

      Thank you Charla. I agree-I am always thanking God for Nancy who showed me Jesus by her life. I am reminded of how important it is for me to do the same.

  2. Sincerity or Hypocrisy? - Shirley Desmond Jackson on September 19, 2019 at 2:36 PM

    Thank you for reading this post. If you are interested in reading a related post, click on the link above to read “Sincerity or Hypocrisy”.

  3. Second Chances - Shirley Desmond Jackson on November 7, 2019 at 10:44 PM

    Thank you for reading this post. If you are interested in reading a related post, click on the link above to read “Second Chances”.

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