Last week I drove by a guy holding up a sign. I came home and started writing about him, and while writing thought, you should do that! No, I should not!I thought back immediately, and the intensity of my dread told me that standing on a street corner with a sign saying Jesus Loves You is indeed exactly what I should do. But this qualified as throwing me completely outside my comfort zone, let me tell you. So, I posted online my intention, and how, exactly, does one get out of that?
I also posted an invitation to Christians to join me, and Deanna, friend and often guitar player in my band, texted me immediately telling me that she was unfortunately tied up washing her hair. Not entirely sure I believe that one…
Saturday night I developed an incredibly sore throat. Strep, I thought. Yes, this one feels like strep. One can only hope. Certainly God wouldn’t hold me to my promise now that I’d come up with strep throat! By Monday, my ‘strep’ had vanished into nothing more than a baby sniffly cold. So, Monday night I texted Deanna. “What was I thinking? Why don’t you stop me from my crazy ideas! This is all your fault!” Deanna responded with #my friend has lost her mind.
Tuesday morning dawns. It occurs to me that this would be a good day to not get out of bed. It is so warm and so cozy under these covers, and Lilly is sleeping next to me, trapping my legs in a tangle of sheets. I sure don’t want to disturb the dog. I mean, I love her, she’s such a good dog!
I’d gone to the Dollar Store earlier in the week and bought myself a wide tipped black marker and some poster board. To my dismay, they were out of white poster board. I ended up with fluorescent green. Yup, no getting around it, this sign was going to stand out. I write on the poster board and take a selfie of myself holding it in my kitchen. “Does it count if I just hold the sign up in here for an hour?” I text Deanna. She texts me back, “Chicken.”
Her hair better be really clean.
I am honestly very nervous about this plan. Oh, I know I will survive. I mean, I don’t really expect to be mowed down by an enraged non-believing motorist, although being pegged with tomatoes seems somehow within the realms of possibility. It’s just, I am going to look like a fool, and feel like a fool, and I don’t want to look like a fool, and I don’t want to feel like a fool. Plus, it’s cold outside. And its warm in my house. Snuggly. I start doing the dishes my daughter didn’t actually do last night. The house is a mess. Godliness and cleanliness; those two are linked, right?
As I am pathetically procrastinating, postponing the inevitable — because I am going to do this, I mean, I posted on the internet, after all, and I do know I am going to do this — the Christmas CD I have recorded arrives at my doorstep. I meet the cute DHL driver on my porch step and sign, and then it is only right that I listen to the CD and make sure it sounds right, so I do. The album actually sounds great, and ummm, it’s all about how Jesus Loves You, and how that is such a good thing and how you don’t have to cry tonight because Jesus loves you, and suddenly it’s hard to avoid this any more.
Over the week, I’d spent a fair amount of time debating where in town I intended to stand. There are three main intersections with heavy traffic volume in Winfield, where I live. Each is located along the highway, one near my beloved Tim Hortons, one near the church I attend, the police station where the hot cops work and the Boys and Girls Club where I once worked and where I am seem as rather intelligent and reasonably sane, and one near my home. All week long I debate over which corner to stand on. I think maybe it technically would count for me to just stand on a remote country backroad (there are lots of those where I live), I mean, it’s not like any of you would know the difference. But, I would know. And I would know that I was ashamed of my Jesus. And that is just not okay. So, back roads are out.
In the end, I just get in my car and drive to the nearest corner, and so, at 11 am precisely, I am standing at the busiest spot in town, in front of Esso and right near McDonald’s and the liqour store and drug store and Coopers, where my daughter is employed. I park in the mall parking lot and walk up to the corner. I carry the sign with me, words turned into my leg, and my heart is rioting. I am two feet from the corner and still, I do not want to do this. I actually have to psych myself up to turn the sign around so that the words are facing out. It is unbelievably difficult to rotate that sign around. I face the cars. I start to smile and wave. This is going to be a very long hour, I think, and then, God, really? Just… Really? Then, I have lost my mind! I am the John 3:16 guy! And then a very strange thing happens. I start to have fun.
I am waving at people, and a good percentage of them are waving back. People are either smiling at me or staring straight ahead ignoring me like the crazy person I am. This works for me. Truckers are honking at me, people are flashing thumbs up signs my way, a guy on a Harley waves and yells, Praise the Lord sweetheart!
I can’t say this is really easy, that wouldn’t be honest, but it is having surprising results. For one thing, I can’t seem to stop laughing. I mean, I am smiling at people, and if nothing else, I want that smile to be sincere, which means I am smiling large, and it’s hard not to laugh when you are trying as hard as I am to be sincere. And then the traffic starts to lag, and I discover the real reason why people pick busy intersections to hold signs at — it is hard to hold a sign saying Jesus loves you while waving at passersby, but it is infinitely harder to stand there with a sign saying Jesus loves you with no one to interact with. God, you need to send me more traffic, I pray. And I get an immediate response that I recognize as God’s voice in my head, More traffic means more people are going to see you. Whatever, God, I answer with what I consider to be very good-natured non-verbal acknowledgement that I have been terrified over nothing, just send me more cars.
I start thinking about John the Baptist: a voice crying in the wilderness. The Bible never really tells you much about the emotions of its players. Now, I wonder, did John the Baptist have these same nervous feelings when he did the things God had for him to do? A voice crying in the wilderness… it sounds big and impressive, but how much fun could it have been, really? Maybe John the Baptist, like me, really wanted to be normal and liked and just like everybody else, even when he also wanted to be different and obedient and all who God wanted him to be, and see a world changed and bettered and loved by the one, Jesus, whom John had been sent to proclaim.
The words on my sign say Jesus Loves You. They really do need to know this, Lord, I think, and suddenly my eyes are moist.
Family legend tells how my mother, when dating my father, got a bit tipsy and stood on a balcony yelling, “Sheila loves Marlin!” My mom was an elementary school teacher. She was more the correct-my-bad-grammar and the horrified-when-my-daughter-spoke-slang type of person than the drunk-on-a-balcony type. And yet, love makes you crazy.
I say I am a Christian. I say that I believe that Jesus was perfect, sinless, that he only got angry for righteous reasons, that when he felt compassion people’s lives were changed and bettered. I believe that He came and suffered and died simply because of love. I believe that he was willing to be arrested, to be spat on, to be publicly stripped and mocked, to have his clothes bid upon in front of him by a bunch of bullies, to be beaten beyond recognition, whipped, scourged and ultimately put to death in a brutal, gruesome fashion. Because I am not perfect. Because he and I couldn’t be friends otherwise. That is what I say I believe.
And I am afraid to stand on a street corner looking foolish for one hour?
Christians believe that Jesus is the son of God. We believe there is a God. We believe he came from a virgin birth. We believe that after he died, he rose from the dead. And people say we must be crazy to believe all that stuff. But actually, I think that is the easy part. I think it is far more crazy to believe that there is a love so great. All the rest of the story, well, yeah, that can’t be scientifically proven. But so what? Some dude was unusual. Lots of that going around. But do you know ANYONE ever anywhere who knows how to love the way the Bible portrays Jesus loving? I don’t. And trust me, I am including myself in that statement. It is crazy to believe that love like that exists.
But that is what I believe. Jesus loves you. Like nothing and no one before or since.
With my sign, I have approached traffic from all four directions to the best of my ability. I shift position so I am facing the traffic as it is moving, as it is stopped, as it points me way. And suddenly, stopped across the street from me is Kent. We have done music together in days gone by; he is an amazing singer and a very good sound man. I laugh when I see him and with declaratively raised eyebrows, point at the sign and then at him. He has this look on his face like, Leigh has finally lost it. We always knew this day was coming. He waves as he drives by. And then Dave shows up.
When the CDs showed up at my doorstep, I had texted, Dave, my drummer, to tell him they had arrived. When he asked if he could stop by and get one, I said sure, and directed him to where to find me. Fourty minutes into my hour, Dave arrives with coffee the way he knows I like it and offers to hold the sign for awhile. “I’ll hold this,” he says, “You wave.”
I start telling him about the experience. “One lady gave me the finger,” I tell him, and he looks at the words of love on the sign and is surprised. “Really?” he says, “Someone fingered that?” He points.
“Well, yeah,” I say. “But I actually expected more than one. Canadians really are polite.”
I hand Dave my phone and ask him to take a photo for posterity. For proof, really. As I do so I notice a text. It is from Kent.
Wow!!!! I sure needed to be reminded of that today. Thanks Sis.
I smile. Kent, you are so welcome.
It is infinitely easier on this street corner now that Dave is here, knowing I am not alone. Then again, that is one of the results of the day.
I come from a secular education background; I work in a very secular job. I tend to think of Christianity as a declining religion. Churches are closing, in my own observation churches don’t always seem to be doing a whole lot of good, sometimes they don’t even seem to be full of very good people. Sometimes it seems like the generation growing up sees Christianity as not only difficult to believe, but irrelevant and not worth believing. But today, while I stood on a street corner, people of all ages and genders, in all types of vehicles, smiled and waved and honked in solidarity to the most basic and most powerful message I believe this world has ever known.
Jesus Loves You.