Jason Gardner comments

Jason Gardner
Jason Gardner

The couple next to me were in their late sixties, much to my chagrin, I assumed they were flying to Colorado in February for sight seeing, not for skiing. 'Oh no' said the lady, more than a little put out, 'we're not so old we can't head down a slope or two.' Fortunately for me the conversation recovered and we had a warm chat which inevitably led to discussing my motives for heading up into the Rockies - a Christian spiritual retreat.

I thought this might be a conversation stopper but the lady then felt it her duty, as a Brit who'd lived in Washington for 13 years, to warn me of the sales tactics of American gurus, 'they're very good at selling things, the Americans, there'll be music, lights, the works. Just remember when you're sat there, just say to yourself, 'I'm British, I'm British, think British'' Apparently a spot of patriotic fervour is just the thing to ward off brainwashing.

As the flight wore on, in between ballerina warm ups in the aisles and numerous forgettable movies, our conversation returned to religion. Not prompted by me I might add, I was doing my casual evangelism routine - let the obvious ardour of my Christian aura shine through in the gentle way I handed over the complimentary pretzels. The lady, though, obviously had a story she wanted to share. 'I used to be a Christian you know, for thirty years.' And even before I could think 'yes, I'm sure, hatches, matches and dispatches and mass on Christmas eve' she said, 'and not a nominal Christian, I believed it in my heart.' Fantastic, I thought, what an opener and immediately my brain geared up to deliver an apologetic that would have Ravi Zacharias gently weeping at its subtle beauty and win her back to her faith. However after deciding to take the foot off the pedal a little, I simply asked 'what happened?' 'A spiritual experience in Nepal.' An interesting answer and I immediately thought that she'd had a dose of nirvana whilst making her way up to some Buddhist monastery balanced on the side of a mountain. But, as it turned out, it was a very different type of experience.

She saw families desperate for survival offering rice to the household idol before they ate. They'd feed their god first even if it meant that they went without. She was stunned by how much belief the people she saw had; that remaining true to their religion meant everything to them. - 'I've lived in America as well as the UK and church, well, it's just something people do in their leisure time, for these Nepalese families it was everything to them.' This was what had caused her crisis of faith, not an intellectual dilemma, not the traditional apologetics issues - God allowing suffering, intelligent design versus Darwin - it was simply a matter of authenticity - 'These people really believed, we can't all be right.'

Again I didn't feel it appropriate to wade in with an answer, this time largely because what she said gave me pause for thought. The faith of the families she witnessed in Nepal was a faith that cost them the little that they had: could it be that people in the west do not believe in the value of Christ because they see the Christian faith costing us so little? I'm reminded of something Tony Campolo says 'If we lose this generation to Christ it will not be because we've made Christianity too difficult, it will be because we've made Christianity too easy.'

I hope we aspire to live a life of such sacrifice that the riches of Christ are made manifest in our words and actions: that people covet our lives and know that to give up everything to own Christ is a price worth paying. CR

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