“Why do you have a Jesus bumper sticker on your car?” I had just pulled up into the visitor’s parking of my parents’ apartment complex and was exhausted. I was just at the mall for two and a half hours, and for those who go shopping for fun this might be hard to understand but I hate it. I shop online when it’s at all possible. I know what sizes I take in a handful of brands and I just reorder those whenever my clothes wear out. But recently all the styles I know had been discontinued, and I’d been wearing the same two pairs of pants, one with a hole in them, for months, alternating days. All my socks had holes in them. I was down to one bra whose underwire was beginning to slip out. It was time. It had to be done.
I was on my way to my parents’ house in New Hampshire, so I stopped at the mall there to take advantage of the lack of sales tax. Macy’s, three stops: bras, pants, and socks. The first two took about an hour each and by the time I headed toward the socks section I was dehydrated, overheated, emotionally spent at having to make so many decisions all at once (do other INFPs have that problem? It’s the P, wanting to make sure we have all the information and time to consider before we come to a conclusion), mildly traumatized by spending more money in one sitting than I had in years, and my eyes and head hurt from the lights. Did you know migraineurs’ brains register the flickering of flourescent lights while others’ brains don’t? It’s like the other people are in a normal store but we’re trying to shop in a disco ball.
I finally paid for all the things, limped out to my car and drove the fifteen minutes to my parents’ house. I was shaking, having trouble focusing on the road, and all I could think about was getting a glass of ice water and lying down on the couch. I’m really not exagerating. I had pulled into the parking lot, opened my door, and started to gather my things, when I heard the question from two young people behind me, a man and a woman. College students, probably – the apartment complex is just down the road from Saint Anselm College.
“Why do you have a Jesus bumper sticker on your car?” Man, was I tired. I laughed to myself as I remembered the verse in 1 Peter, “Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have.” I’m sure that when he wrote “always” the first century apostle hadn’t imagined getting out of your car after an exhausting trip to Macy’s. Getting out of your boat after a night’s fishing trip, though – he knew about that. Being told to throw his net over the side of the boat one more time, even though he had been throwing it all night to no avail.
It had been a long time since anyone asked me about my faith. It used to be my job to talk about it. I used to hate that the organization I worked for encouraged me to talk about it to people who hadn’t asked. I could (and might) write a book about my thoughts on evangelism, what my school taught and my own experiences, what I used to believe and what I do now. But regardless, I still believed in Jesus, and if someone was asking me a direct question I wanted to give a direct answer, even if I was tired.
The short answer, actually, was that the car used to be my parents and my dad had put that sticker on, as well as another, and I felt somehow disloyal to him and to God for wanting to take them off. I don’t like bumper stickers that much in general, but especially religious or political ones. I don’t think they’re going to change anyone’s mind – at best, they let other Chirstians, or Democrats, or environmentalists know that you are one of them; at worst, which I think probably happens more often, they just offend people. You drive by in your sealed off car, toss some words at them, and never even look them in the eye. But, as I said, I do believe, still. So I compromised by removing one and leaving the other. I left the one with the pun — Wise men, get it?
As to the longer answer, the reason I still believe enough to keep one of the stickers on, and what it is I that I believe… Well Jesus, certainly, I believed in Him, and even if I didn’t I felt like I’d made my decision to trust in Him anyway; made that decision over and over again as a child, young adult, seminary student, and that decision somehow held me even through doubt. And I did believe, still, that He loved me, that I was the Beloved and that these two people were, too, just as much as me. God’s beloved creation, whose life had meaning and hope and importance and who might not even know that. Maybe I could tell them? Since they were asking?
So as I swung my tired legs out of the car and turned to face my questioners I tried to gather my thoughts to express all of these things, the questions and the answers, the doubt and the certainty, my dad’s faith and my own.
“Well,” I began, “The short answer is that my parents gave me this car…”
“Oh my gosh, I’m so sorry.” said the man, as I stood up and turned around, “We thought you were one of our friends. You have the same car and you looked like her from the back.”
And the two of them walked away, laughing nervously at themselves.
It’s possible I over think things.