It was a pleasant day in the mid-1990s. I’d spent some time dating a Goth guy and had assumed some of the trappings of the Goth culture, even after the guy and I had broken up. I was never one for the white pancake makeup and black nail polish and hair dye, but my wardrobe accumulated a lot of black that year.
I remember very clearly what I was wearing this day: An extra-large Marilyn Manson T-shirt over jeans and combat boots, and a spiked dog collar around my neck. As mentioned, I eschewed the clown makeup for the most part, but sometimes I’d powder my already-pale face a little and slap on a little black lipstick and some eyeliner; on this day I had gotten creative and applied some dark red lipliner pencil to the edges of my eyelids. I probably looked like someone who might be suffering from a compromised immune system.
I didn’t have a car. I had taken the bus to a local strip mall where there was a store I liked; they sold weird shirts and jewelry and body piercings and incense and indie music.
So there I was, meandering from shop to shop on a sunny afternoon, looking scary. I sometimes wish I had photos of myself from those days, but I don’t; you’ll have to use your imagination. A twenty-something C, with long, reddish hair, a little less squishy of muscle tone than modern-day C. Black T-shirt emblazoned with Marilyn Manson at the height of his popularity; spiked dog collar; big, butt-kicking combat boots; dark lipstick, red-lined eyes.
If you’re a Christian who saw such a person on the street, in the mall, or sipping a chai at Starbucks, would you approach them to share the Gospel?
And this is an adult we’re talking about here, not a kid or a teenager. No way to plausibly pass off the Great Commission by saying, “I don’t want her parents calling the cops on me” or other liability issues you might have when dealing with children. This is a grown woman. No excuses.
Be honest. Would you do it?
There was a group of them, about my age, led by a bespectacled, clean-cut young man. I don’t remember his exact words, but he approached me without hesitation and brightly struck up a conversation with me; something to the effect of, “Hi there, I see you’re wearing a Marilyn Manson T-shirt. I don’t know if you’re aware that Marilyn Manson was raised in a Christian home?”
This guy, and the small gaggle of young people with him, did not know me. They had no way of knowing that I was, by nature, a polite person. I’ve never, even in my most rebellious years, been inclined to be rude to strangers, even “Bible-thumpers.” But this young man couldn’t have known that. Goths are not known for their tolerance of Christian evangelism. He could have taken one look at me and passed by on the other side of the road, saying, “Yeesh, we’ll pass on that one.” He had every reason to think I might be a Satanist, or a Wiccan, or God only knows what kind of Christian-hating weirdo. He saw someone who had gone outside that day looking deliberately scary, and he almost certainly didn’t expect politeness from me.
But he didn’t let that stop him from sharing the Gospel with me.
As it turned out, I wasn’t the kind of person he may have feared I was. When I failed to curse him out, call him names, or make unpleasant hand gestures, and instead stopped and engaged with him in conversation, what must he have thought? What would YOU have thought? Would you even have gotten that far?
I was Catholic in those days, but several years out of school and out of my parents’ house, and I’d even half-heartedly dabbled in the occult here and there. I believed in God, and I loved him, but there was a “but…” in my heart alongside him. I mentioned my Catholicism to the young man. He showed me a card or tract that had the name of a Baptist church somewhere. He didn’t disparage Catholicism or start a debate about doctrine with me, but he did talk about sin. I don’t remember everything he said, but I remember him telling me earnestly and sincerely that he himself was “a terrible sinner.” I looked at him incredulously, this button-down, clean-shaven, short-haired, khaki-clad guy my own age. A terrible sinner? I was a terrible sinner. I had done things that could actually be classified as terrible. But this preppie?
Moving off to the side of the walkway by the parking lot, he urged me to pray with him. “You can receive His forgiveness right now. Will you pray with me right now and ask God to forgive your sins?” I politely declined. It would have been so easy for me to just play along and say whatever the Bible-thumper wanted me to say to get rid of him, but instead I simply said that I didn’t feel I could do that. I remember saying, “I’m sorry,” as if it was this young man I was disappointing. Even in those days, I knew that God knew my heart and would know if I was lying, even if these strangers didn’t. You can fool other people, and you can even fool yourself, but you can’t fool him.
I never saw these people again, but I know that they prayed for me. And I think they knew, even though I didn’t accept the Lord into my heart that day, that they had planted a seed. One that I would remember ten years later when I finally did turn from my sin and receive Christ as my Savior.
Those kids walked up to a freak on the street to share God’s love with boldness that day, and I like to think they went on their way rejoicing at the seed they planted. Will I be so bold when I see a freak, a weirdo, a scary-looking person at my own mall? Will you?