I had always subscribed to the theory (I don’t know where I got it, I think I just made it up) that when you had done something displeasing to the Lord you were useless in the witness department until you had confessed and then waited a good while for life to perk up. So when I was a student in Trinity College I would set out from my rooms in the Graduates Memorial Building in the morning, to go to the lab (in the Moyne Institute across the park) where I studied, with every intention of bearing witness for Christ. I would be scarcely halfway there when Satan would sidle up to me and say, “When you think about it, you’re not much of an advertisement for Christianity are you? Are you really sure all your sins are forgiven? Have you put a couple of miles of clear blue water between yourself and the past?” (Satan seems to be very fussy about who gets to share their faith! He wouldn’t mind if we all got neutralised by any old plausible-sounding argument.) By the time I reached the lab my resolution had been torpedoed.
Keeping it practical
So you can imagine that getting my head around “walking in the light” was, to put it mildly, a big break. I attended an evangelism training session in Greystones, County Wicklow, one Saturday morning where we studied this passage together. Then the guy running it said, “Just to keep it practical …” and I was sure he was going to suggest that we had a time of prayer to take some deliberate steps to breathe spiritually (although we had already done that in private). But no, that wasn’t his idea. “Just to keep it practical we’ll get in the cars now and go to Dun Laoghaire Pier to see whom we can talk to about the Lord.” “Cars!” I panicked internally, “Nobody said anything about cars! The Pier! Good grief! I might know somebody there! Anyway, I’m not ready. I’m not all prayed up. How do I know if I’m even filled with the Holy Spirit? I mean, you have to have a glowing feeling in the back of your neck before you go out boldly to talk to other people, don’t you?” I was rescued by the word of God that reminded me that we “walk by faith” – and by the arrival of the cars. (Apparently we were going to drive by faith too.)
Thirty-five minutes later I found myself walking down Eblana Avenue in Dun Laoghaire where I fell into conversation with a fellow in his late teens who was sitting on the low wall at the corner with Marine Road. After talking around the subject for a while I asked him if he had any interest in knowing God personally. He did. Since I wasn’t quite expecting this it took me a moment to recover and find in my jacket pocket a user-friendly outline of the gospel. I asked whether he would be up for the two of us going through this four-point outline together. “Why not?” So, between us, we read through the outline, covering half a dozen key Bible passages that spoke into his situation. Then came the time to pop the question. “Would you like to invite Christ to come into your life?” I asked. “Yes.” By this point I had lost the plot since my mental script didn’t run this far. I couldn’t remember what I had been trained to do in these situations (not really having imagined myself getting into such situations!) So I improvised. “Here’s a sample prayer you could pray. Take the booklet home and kneel down at your bedside and pray and Christ will keep his promise to come in.” (I can’t believe I said that – when I kneel down by my bedside I fall asleep!) Once I had packed him off home I’m sure God looked after him and I later learned, and am still learning, how to do better. I never did meet him again. But when I looked back over all that had happened in our conversation that afternoon I could see something from which I have never since recovered. God used me in someone else’s life.
Book-launch 7:30 pm Tuesday 17th September at Footprints bookshop Dun Laoghaire. They also distribute the book email@example.com