Lips, Sleeves, and Missed Opportunities

Lips, Sleeves, and Missed Opportunities


Strongest among the things that haunt me are missed opportunities to speak of the faith.

I try to be a person who wears his faith on his sleeve. Literally, I mean. I wear things that identify that I am a Catholic Christian.

One of the benefits of having working in campus ministry for so many years is that I have a collection of custom shirts that I specifically designed to reveal faith. Each year when we would equip our students to do outreach to other students, we would dress them accordingly. So I have shirts that say “Catholic Chaplaincy” and shirts that say “Faith is Meant to be Lived” (a term I came up with to indicate a bold, lived witness of faith).

I still wear these out, often forgetting the message it is speaking to those around me.

Today I was in line at the drug store and a lady behind me tapped my shoulder. “Your shirt,” she said, “I really like it. It’s so true. Faith is meant to be lived! It’s so important today.”

I agreed, and she asked me what I did for a living. I told her I used to be a university chaplain and now worked for an organization that helps churches reach new people with the Gospel.

She told me that that was so great. Then I got called to the cash. Then when I had payed I thanked her for her compliment of the shirt and left.

Then I started kicking myself.

"Why didn’t you give her your card?” “Why didn’t you tell her about your church nearby?” “Why didn’t you invite her to Alpha?” "Why didn't you at least chat a little longer?"

I believe that strangers speaking to us about faith is truly a golden opportunity. It is not a time to rush, or to be simply polite, but to be deliberately warm, effusive, friendly and invitational.

Sometimes I get this down. I have had great conversations with people who comment on messages on my clothing. I've shared a meal with someone who asked about it in a restaurant. Another time my wife and I became good friends with a family who asked about another shirt in the park one day. We went camping together recently.

But there are other times, like today, where I’m preoccupied, or having a bad day, or just caught off guard, where I miss a golden opportunity to talk more with someone about the faith.

Those are the worst!

These are the times, as I’ve said, where I need to be ready at any moment to come out of my shell and engage. 

It’s not enough to limit our opportunities to the times we plan, like yesterday when I invited one of my son’s classmate’s parents to activity at our church. In the New Evangelization it is so important to be faithful, intentional and relational. It’s also important to be sensitive and responsive to opportunities that God presents to you.

How can you and I get better at this? One thing I am going to do is add something to my morning offering: "God, please give me an opportunity to speak of you to someone today. And please help me recognize it and act.”

I am asking God to help me always be ready to give a reason for the hope that is in me, and offer it readily and freely! (cf. 1 Peter 3:15)

Cardinal Schonborn spoke recently about how he desired for the faithful (even cardinals and bishops) to discuss openly their failures at evangelization, their missed opportunities. I find this to be both liberating and motivating. It’s freeing to know I’m not the only one that struggles with this; it’s motivating to develop a missionary mindset that is intentional and keeps track!

Let’s wear our faith on our sleeves. Let’s also have it frequently on our lips. This is what I mean when I say that faith is meant to be lived. 

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