For a brief time in my childhood, I thought God had called me to be a missionary. I was raised in a church that put heavy empasis on missionaries and missionary work, so it wasn’t a huge surprise that I would think this. I read lots and lots of children-oriented missionary books about kids who went to far off places and meet interesting people and had adventures while leading the lost to Jesus. Our church had regular “missionary meetings” on Sunday nights were we’d listen to stories from missionaries and sometimes sample food from different countries. In the end, I think what I really wanted was to travel the world. The thought of trying to ‘witness’ to anyone who might be hostile about Jesus scared me tremendously. However I found that when I talked about Jesus to people anywhere near my home I found that pretty much everyone who lived near me already knew about Jesus and wasn’t hostile at all. They didn’t even ask any of the hard questions I feared like “Why should I believe the Bible?” or “How could someone be punished for my sins 2000 years before I was born?” Besides being teased in school for being a “goody-two-shoes” going around the neighborhood inviting kids to Vacation Bible School I faced no hostility at all. Despite what I assumed about the mean kids being lost heathens, it turned out that they pretty much all of them came from Christian families and some were even proud of their faith and practice. And despite the fear of some Evangelicals about the persecution of Christians in public schools, the bullying I faced had nothing to do with my religion.
All the same, being rejected hurt so I tended not to risk it. And then I would feel very guilty about it because I was sure I wasn’t ‘witnessing’ as much as I should. I would pray fervently for boldness to witness but that never worked. I sometimes would get a feeling passing a house that God wanted me to go witness to those people but then when I went to knock on the door no one would be home. There was no way to distinguish these feelings from my imagination. I longed to actually hear something — ANYTHING — from God that I could be sure of. Even if it was a call to drop everything and live in a dirt hut somewhere in Africa. But God, and every hint of actual supernatural activity that could be distinguished from imagination, was conspicuously absent. I wanted to be convinced like Paul in Romans 8:38-39. Surely, if Paul could be convinced, I could be too. This realization that I was not convinced, and that I wanted to be convinced, was a first step for me on a road that I seriously did not expect to lead to atheism.