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Mountaintop Experiences: Romancing the Bible

Chris Carpenter - Director of Internet Programming

If you were faced with the proposition of reading a Harlequin Romance or the Holy Bible what would you choose?

No, I am not joking nor am I trying to be cute. Despite being from opposite ends of the literary spectrum, choosing a romance novel in lieu of a Bible is far from a simple decision for many people.

As Christians the obvious answer should be the Holy Bible but for many the answer isnt always quite so clear. Imagine what a non-believer must think when presented with this query.

For Brian the answer was also a bit fuzzy. Having hiked for several days on the Appalachian Trail without anything to read, he was hungry for the privilege of scanning the parched text of a good book.

Despite the natural solitude that hiking and reading each provide, it seems the two would go hand in hand. This is not the case. Most hikers, upon battling a cumbersome pack up and down hardscrabble peaks for much of a day, are usually content to set up camp, eat, and then collapse into a deep slumber of sweet dreams and aching feet. Sadly, reading doesnt rank high on the priority list. Brian was different.

As we breathlessly lumbered into the Hawk Mountain Shelter to set up camp for the night, my dear old friend and hiking partner John noticed our soon to be buddy Brian foraging through every nook and cranny of our primitive accommodations.

"What are you looking for," quizzed John, as we removed our backpacks. "Did you lose something?"

"Yes and no," replied Brian, not looking up from his quest. "I think I lost my brand new aqua socks. I cant believe it. I just bought them."

"Are they gray and white and made by L.L. Bean?" I chimed in. "If so, we saw them about two miles back laying in the middle of the trail. We didnt know who they belonged to so we just left them."

"Yeah, they are," he answered. "You say they are a couple of miles back?"

John and I nodded in unison.

"I will give you guys $50 dollars if you go back and get them for me."

While the proposition was enticing to us both, the thought of making a quick buck versus going to sleep was a no-brainer. We each declined politely and began the arduous process of unpacking our 40-pound burdens.

Brian observed us for several minutes, studying each and every item we pulled from our backpacks. He had been at the shelter for several hours already and appeared to be bored. His interested gaze gave me the impression he was looking for something among our belongings. He finally broke the awkwardness of the moment.

"So, ah, did you guys bring anything to read with you?"

Before we could answer Brian continued.

"Someone told me that most of the shelters had old copies of Readers Digest. I have been out here for three days and havent found any yet. However, I did find an old Harlequin Romance sitting by that log over there. Its called "The Ways of a Man " Better than nothing I "

John eagerly interrupted his diatribe. "Yes we did. We each have a copy of the Bible with us. Do you want to borrow one from us tonight."

He shot us a puzzled look, you know the one, an arched eyebrow followed by a curling of the upper lip. It is the kind of look similar to when you were presented a geometry problem in 10th grade that made absolutely no sense.

"Is it any good?" he asked.

"Is it any good?" John bellowed rhetorically. Sensing an opportunity to share the Gospel, he attempted to pique Brian's interest by making comparisons to the newly acquired romance novel. "It is better than good. The Bible is chock full of stories about greed, lust, murder, but best of all it has important answers about life."

"Greed, lust, and murder, huh," Brian responded. "If that book was called anything other than the Holy Bible it would be banned."

Silence.

We didnt have an adequate response. Rather than pursuing a deeper conversation about a personal relationship with Jesus Christ with him, the discussion quickly detoured back to pedestrian chitchat.

Later that evening, Brian read the first 60 pages of the romance novel with zeal by the flickered light of a candle. He eventually extinguished the flame and went to sleep. In doing so, our evangelical flame had been snuffed out as well.

We blew it ... not the candle but the opportunity to share the Gospel with someone who obviously had never heard much about it. The opportunity was near perfect. We were miles from anywhere with someone who was desperate for something to read. Better yet, the only book of substance available was the Bible. Compounding matters, two able bodied Christians were standing by willing to answer any questions he might have about a personal relationship with Jesus Christ.

But what did we do? We let the moment slip away. When we could have been discussing the life of Christ, we were conversing about the latest camp stove technology instead. But why?

The reasons are potentially endless but the one I keep coming back to is fear. I was afraid that Brian would be resistant or angered by what I had to say. Rather than taking a bold step of faith and let the Holy Spirit take over, I tried to justify the situation by means of the human flesh. Even though my heart was telling me otherwise, my head was conveying a message of complacency. Simply put, I had a fear of rejection.

Have you ever been in this situation before? A relative, friend, neighbor, or co-worker asks a question that all but begs for a faith-based answer. But rather than seeing it as opportunity you view it as a stumbling block that might alter your relationship. Therefore, you mumble and bumble over some ill conceived, shallow response, hoping for the conversation to somehow change its course.

Hopefully, you are a "Carpe Diem Christian" waiting to seize any and every opportunity to witness. Sadly, most of are not.

In Acts 1:7-8, many of Christs disciples were asking Him whether he was going to free Israel and restore their kingdom. He replied by saying, "The Father sets those dates and they are not for you to know. But when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, you will receive power and will tell people about me everywhere in Jerusalem, throughout Judea, in Samaria, and to the ends of the earth."

In other words, because no one knows the day or the hour when Jesus Christ will return, we as Christians must seize every opportunity to share the gospel when it presents itself.

In essence, if you feel led to share your faith then share it. Not every effort will be rewarding but here and there you will find people whom the Holy Spirit is drawing you to.

So, the next time someone asks you if you have anything to read, I would highly recommend offering the Holy Bible instead of a Harlequin romance.

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