Jump directly to the Content

Swimming in the "Lost Pool"

I wasn't completely comfortable sharing my faith outside the church walls, until God threw me in the deep end of the water.

God dumped me. Not that I didn't deserve it; I did. I hadn't kept my end of the deal: I made excuses, let others tackle the problem, and avoided the situation altogether. So God had no choice. He dumped me into the deep end of the "Lost Pool" and my life hasn't been the same since.

A good Christian Southern girl from birth, I lived in the Bible belt and in the church building. If there were lost souls to be saved, I was more than happy to share Jesus with them—as soon as they crossed the threshold of the church doors. Leaving the safety and shelter of the church walls to share the love of Jesus with others was beyond my comfort zone. I liked where I was, and I wasn't budging.

So God moved me. To China. Literally.

When my husband's company moved us to Nanjing, China, I wasn't sure what to expect. But like Dorothy leaving Kansas, I quickly realized I wasn't home anymore. Although the Chinese culture and traditions shocked me, the other foreigners and Westerners, who I lived in close community with, threw me for an even bigger loop. Having sequestered myself from "these types of people," that is, individuals who didn't regularly attend church or have much regard for God, I was appalled by their behavior.

Every get-together was cause for raucous celebration. Whether it was a ladies luncheon or a barbeque dinner, beer and wine flowed heavily, conversations were laced with vulgarity, and gossip was shared across every table. I realize that I'm not perfect; nor is anyone else I know. But as a believer I tried not to engage in those types of behaviors, and I couldn't understand how people could act and live in a way that was contrary to what I believed.

Yet these were the people God had chosen for me to live in community with in the Land of the Dragon. Isolating myself from them wasn't a possibility, regardless of how much I longed to do so. The only way I was going to survive this shock-and-awe environment was to do what I knew God wanted me to do. I had to learn to swim in the deep end of the "Lost Pool."

Let Down the Net

I'd always thought of myself as a strong swimmer, or strong Christian, but that was when I swam in the shallow end of the pool where I felt safe. For me, the deep end of the pool was uncharted waters. The only thing I could do was ask God for help. And this is how he encouraged me: "Put out into deep water, and let down the nets for a catch" (Luke 5:4). Peter, James, and John were unsure of what they would catch when they went out into the deep waters, yet they trusted Jesus' instructions to them. In these unfamiliar waters, could I do likewise?

It's not that I didn't like the people God had placed in my path. I did. But we were people with different beliefs, different activities, and different hearts. There seemed to be no common ground among us. Yet I knew God had planted me here with them for a reason, so I needed to find ways to associate with them. Like any novice swimmer, I carefully began treading water.

As the opportunities to interact and socialize with others presented themselves, I decided to become more willing and open to accepting them. Whether an invitation to lunch or a few hours spent shopping, I used these occasions to get to know these people and make friends with them. To my surprise, I discovered that we did have common ground. I mean, who doesn't enjoy a latte and a good shoe sale? Short and cordial outings soon evolved into dinners together during the week and family trips on the weekends. A mutual respect and appreciation began to develop, and though we were still on opposite ends of the spectrum in regard to our beliefs, we were learning to live with one another and enjoy one another's company.

I knew God's purpose for me in these deeper waters was more than just time spent together, however. He was doing a work in me that I'd never experienced in my holy sanctuary of separation from unbelievers. God's plan for me in this foreign land was two-fold: (1) to embrace the love, sadness, and compassion that washed over me as my heart began to break for my new, unsaved friends; and (2) to overcome my fear of sharing Jesus so I could be a light to their darkened world.

Realizing the hopeless situation my friends faced apart from God, I began to fervently and urgently pray for them. I knew their troubled marriages, irrational fears and worries, and the void in their lives they tried to fill with worldly things stemmed from the fact that they didn't intimately know Jesus Christ. So I prayed. Yet the prayers I offered for them were different from the general prayers I'd prayed for unbelievers before. Now they were more personal.

When I closed my eyes to intercede on their behalf, I could see their faces, hear their voices, and imagine the vast emptiness of their hearts—hearts that could only be filled with the love of God. A burden I'd never felt before burned within me and a new understanding of how God felt about my friends began to surface. Before long, God revealed to me how to pray specifically for my unsaved friends, beyond the broad plea of salvation. It was a new form of prayer for me, and I knew I'd never pray my old way again.

Without Fear

Salvation wasn't the only prayer for my lost friends. The more time I spent with them, I saw behaviors I could pray for as well. When someone offended my friends, they'd refuse to socialize with that person anymore. I knew I needed to pray that they'd learn to forgive and to live at peace with everyone. When they continued shopping even though their closets were overflowing, I prayed that they'd find contentment. Although I needed these same prayers for myself, I had the hope of Christ within me to help me overcome similar situations. Since prayer wasn't high on their list, I knew I had to keep interceding for them. If I didn't pray, who would?

Although my prayers were powerful and effective, I felt as if they had a behind-the-scenes impact. I needed to be more open and vocal in my faith with my friends if I hoped to penetrate the darkness that enveloped them. But considering my past, that would not be an easy task for me.

In all truth, I avoided the deep waters for a long time because I was afraid. Fear of rejection, embarrassment, and a lack of knowledge kept me from reaching out to those who were drowning. What if I said the wrong words, and they rejected me? What if they laughed at me? What if I couldn't answer their questions or contradict their disbelief? The never-ending doubt and uncertainty plagued my heart and mind to the point where I became paralyzed in my efforts to witness to unbelievers.

Yet God showed me that I didn't have to worry about those things. He wasn't asking me to preach a sermon or debate theological issues. All God asked of me was to let my light shine before these people so they could see my good deeds and praise him (Matthew 5:16). This revelation made it easier for me to relate to my lost friends on a spiritual level and gave me hope that I could share Jesus without fear.

Seeing Results

Slowly I began to share my faith. I found subtle opportunities to plant God's Word in their lives and I more consciously lived out God's Word in my own life. I remember two particular incidents that allowed me to convey my faith with my friends in these ways.

One day several of us were at a restaurant waiting for one other friend to arrive. We were all hungry, and someone suggested calling our friend who was late to see how much longer it would be before she arrived. The girl who offered to call said she was going to "let our friend have it" since she was habitually late. Knowing both ladies' volatile and easily offended personalities, I offered some words of advice.

I simply repeated the words of Proverbs 15:1: "A harsh word stirs up anger, but a gentle answer turns away wrath."

"What does that mean?" my friend asked, genuinely interested.

I was able to explain to her that being harsh with our friend wouldn't get her to the restaurant any faster or in a good mood. But if she asked with sincerity and politeness, our friend would be less likely to become offended and arrive in better spirits.

As my friend made her call, she followed Solomon's words of wisdom, and when our late friend finally made it to the restaurant, we were able to have a delightful lunch.

The other time, I received a phone call from a friend who wanted to share some private information with me.

"I know you don't gossip so I feel safe sharing this with you," she told me.

By simply upholding God's Word in my own life, I was able to show her what trustworthiness in friendship looked like. Because my friends know I don't partake in gossip, they don't call me with the latest community talk, and they know that I won't betray a confidence that's told to me. All I had to do was live for God, and his light would penetrate their hearts and lives.

I've been swimming in the deep end of the "Lost Pool" for three years now. There are days when the waters overtake me, and I want to retreat back to the safer, shallow end. But my friends still don't know the Lord, so I have to keep treading water. But I've become a stronger swimmer because of this experience, and I'm learning to enjoy the journey and embrace the lessons God is teaching me here. I don't know that I'll ever be completely comfortable in deep waters, but I'm no longer afraid of them, nor do I want to avoid them altogether. Like any good swimmer, I'm taking it one stroke at a time.

Liana George has lived as an "expat" in both Asia and Europe with her husband and two teenage daughters since 2006. When she's not moving from place to place, she enjoys traveling, scrapbooking, reading, and writing about her experiences on her blog, transformedwoman.blogspot.com.

Read more articles that highlight writing by Christian women at ChristianityToday.com/Women

Free CT Women Newsletter

Sign up for our Weekly newsletter: CT's weekly newsletter highlighting the voices of women writers. We report on news and give our opinion on topics such as church, family, sexuality, discipleship, pop culture, and more!

Read These Next


Join in the conversation on Facebook or Twitter

Follow Us

More Newsletters