I am always after deep conversations. Small talk for me seems pointless and superficial. I often run out of words to say during social encounters. Awkward silence is too much to bear and to exit immediately is a relief. Because as an introvert, or as a person, merely talking about events and certain people don’t interest me that much. I am looking for ideas in everything. Isn’t it nicer if someone would walk into the room and would ask, “What makes you smile?” instead of “How are you?”
I love to listen before speaking and I listen very cautiously, seek meanings beyond every word spoken and pay attention to gestures, tone of voice, mannerism and choice of words. I’ve spoken to different kinds of people of different races with different cultures and languages. If anyone likes or dislikes talking to me, I can detect the reluctance or the excitement in one’s movement and chosen words even though he or she conceals it. Plato said that you can discover more about a person in an hour of play than a year of conversation. But for me, it depends upon what you want to discover. The way we speak and the chosen topic we prefer give hint of what’s our hearts content because anything goes out of our mouth comes from our hearts which defiles us (Matthew 15:18).
I talked to a kind of person who is really fond of explaining and describing his point of views. He’s good at selecting exact words that convey his exact feelings and he could vividly narrate his justifications. I listened to his series of stories and I waited for him to give way to my response and reactions being the one conversed with that is supposed to interact with him. He enjoyed expressing himself in speech that I forgot what I wanted to say because he kept on talking about his tale regardless of my obvious gesture to say something. So I remained quiet then he spoke again some more of his personal concerns. I figure that those kind of persons are just yearning for ears and are so-called narcissistic conversationalist. If we want to be heard we should take time to listen.
However, I still love conversing with interesting people with pleasing personalities. I can learn a lot from them as well as they can learn something from me. It’s therapeutic and beneficial. I would like to share with you some meaningful conversations I had with good people, mostly about spirituality and religion. I regularly read the Bible and we have weekly Bible studies so I believe that I have a good amount of knowledge to share about my faith. I attended several churches and tried to understand their beliefs based on how they interpret the Bible. I probed the source of their faith and doubt. I read too much; I ask too much and I think too much especially about humanity and spirituality. These are not made up. I tried my best to type down every word we chatted as far as I can remember. They are few minimal alterations which aren’t significant.
Conversation #1 with an atheist
Me: Do you fear death?
A: Yeah. (nodding)
A: Because I enjoy and love life. Nobody knows what’s gonna happen after life.
Me: We never know when and how we’ll die so we must always be ready. My father was afraid of death but he died at 50 and my brother died at 24. Some died younger or older but we will all die. Nobody lives forever.
A: I want to live longer. Just enjoy life, love and be happy.
Me: But you and I, all of us will die. Maybe tomorrow or the next or the next, next day. We never know. (I was smiling, teasing him.)
(I was waiting for him to speak. He was silent so I went on.)
Me: Me, I am not afraid to die. I’m always ready anytime because I believe that something is bound to happen after life. I don’t have anxieties about death.
A: Nobody knows about after life. No dead person came back and reassured us about after life.
Me: There were written… (But he wasn’t listening so I didn’t continue to talk about the story of Lazarus and the rich man in the Bible.) Faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see. (Hebrews 11:1, but I didn’t mention the verse to him.)
A: (He was laughing.) Please don’t speak like Mother Theresa. (laughs)
Me: Of course I don’t. Why? (I smiled.)
(He went away laughing.)
Conversation #2 with a Muslim
M: Quran has the same prophets mentioned in the Bible.
Me: Bible and Quran have many similarities because Quran contains the old testament of the Bible. But Christians believe that Jesus is God and Muslims don’t.
M: We believe that Jesus was only a prophet. He was only a human. Do you have a Bible?
(I was delighted to show him my Bible sitting on my desc.)
Me: I believe that Jesus is the Son of God as written in John 3:16. For God loved the world so much that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not die but have eternal life.
M: (He looked bored and unamused.) God has no son. He has no wife. He has no body like humans.
Me: We have different beliefs because I believe in the Bible and you believe in Quran.
M: Who wrote the Bible?
Me: The prophets and the disciples of Jesus.
M: The Bible wrote by human but the Quran wrote by God.
Me: But the Quran wrote by Mohammad.
M: (He is shaking his head in disapproval.) No, Quran is written by God. The Bible has too many versions.
Me: The Bible is originally written in Hebrew and translated in various of languages all over the world so that the whole world can understand God’s Word. King James translation is the closest to original Hebrew Bible but it’s too deep and some words can hardly comprehend. I think it’s important to read different translations so we can understand better as long as the meanings are not altered. Does Quran have translation?
Me: That’s good.
M: Bible came first and after 300 years Quran came out as last revelation from God.
Me: Oh. (First time to hear that fact.) Then why did they disbelieve the Bible?
M: There is more knowledgeable person who can explain this to you very well.
Conversation #3 with an ex-Christian turned Muslim
E: Muslim believes in Jesus. I believe in the Bible.
Me: But you don’t believe that Jesus is God and it’s written in the Bible.
E: Because there’s only one God. Allah. Jesus, the prophet, never said that He is God. Mention a verse in the Bible that He said He is God.
Me: He says, ‘I and the Father are One.’ John 10:30.
E: He meant God and he have similar goals and vision.
(I creased my forehead in objection.)
E: Even Jesus himself stated that there’s only one God – Allah.
Me: Yes, there’s only one God, but in three different persona – God the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.
E: It’s very impossible to believe that there are three gods.
Me: I told you, one God but in three persona.
(He creased his forehead in objection.)
E: Jesus never died in the cross. It was a different person. God would not allow, as you claim, His Son to suffer and die. He went up in heaven without suffering and dying.
Me: Jesus died in the cross for our sins but after three days He rose up again.
E: Is it possible for God to die? (The tone of his voice indicated that he was mocking the death of Jesus.)
Me: Jesus died for us to be saved and have eternal life. He is God but He made Himself nothing, in human likeness, just for us, for whoever believes in Him will have eternal life. Isn’t it marvelous? (He was now looking uninterested and disgusted and ready to escape.)
E: When I was a Christian before, I went to church and then went home as if nothing happened.
Me: There are a lot of Christians like that, even Muslims. They go to church but they don’t have God in their hearts.
E: When I entered Islam, I found myself. Before I was lost and completely broken but when I got to know God, that He is always there us for, guiding us. I found my purpose in life through Islam.
Me: I understand what you felt. When I was new here in abroad, I struggled a lot but God’s presence never fails to renew my strength being a Christian.
(He cringed in distaste for what I told. We had so many series of conversations about Islam and Christianity. We were opposing magnets that can’t succumb to each other’s beliefs. I often apologized if I unintentionally offended him by my brazen remarks and he apologized too. There was a time when he came to me with troubled face and teary eyes and spoke to me about his love for his religion because it changed him for the better.)
Me: I understand you. I’ve talked to other people with different religions. I’m not telling these to convert you again to Christianity. I’m just sharing with you my beliefs like how you share yours. I’m interested to know others’ faith because I like to learn from it. What I would like you to understand is that don’t build a barrier in your mind thinking that your religion is the only right thing that prevents you to listen to other beliefs because you think they are all fraud.
I attended some churches such as Roman Catholic, Iglesia ni Cristo, Seventh Day Adventist, Baptist, Methodist and figured out their differences. I researched about Islam and Hinduism weighing every belief. My grandfather is a pastor, a minister and I grew up going to church but that didn’t hinder me to open my mind to comprehend other religions. I’ve also become bitter, doubtful and hateful to Christianity before.
Again, I’m not trying to convert you and also don’t try to convert me. But knowing first before rejecting is the wisest thing to do. Assess yourself on how well you understand Christianity.
Conversation #4 with a Roman Catholic
R: Karen, you told me about Exodus 20:4 that God forbade people to make images of any kind. Because of that I researched why Catholics have images and statues in the chapel and I found out why. God commanded Moses concerning the statues on it: And you shall make two cherubim of gold; of hammered work shall you make them, on the two ends of the mercy seat. Make one cherub on the one end, and one cherub on the other end; of one piece with the mercy seat shall you make the cherubim on its two ends. Exodus 25:18–19. (He was reading his Bible.)
Me: Cherubs served as ornamentation for the temple that time.
R: -which means God doesn’t prohibit creating images in any form because he commanded Moses to do it.
Me: -as a form of decoration. God doesn’t want us to make a graven image to be worshiped and bowed down. Exodus 20:4 to 6 says ‘You must not make for yourself an idol of any kind or an image of anything in the heavens or on the earth or in the sea. You must not bow down to them or worship them, for I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God who will not tolerate your affection for any other gods.’ (I was reading my Bible.)
R: We don’t bow down and worship images. It’s just a representation.
Me: I’m sorry but I saw them bowing down to the images of Jesus, Mary and many other prophets.
R: Father *** was always reminding us that those images are just images that should not be worshiped. But should be at least respected because those are images of the saints and Jesus himself.
Me: How about during fiestas? They bring out the images and devotees are displaying excess fanaticism like the frantic devotees of the Black Nazarene.
R: They should be corrected.
Conversation #5 with an Iglesia ni Cristo
I: We believe that Jesus is just human.
Me: The same with Islam but their prophet is Mohammad and your messenger is Felix Manalo.
I: Jesus didn’t say He’s God.
Me: Do you still call Him Lord Jesus though you don’t believe He’s God?
Me: I think it’s very essential to read the Bible in regular basis and not just to listen. Reading is confirming what is heard.
I: Yes, I read after the congregation because it will be very disorganized if all of us will read simultaneously. Listen, then read at home.
Me: Do you read daily?
Me: Do you remember John 3:16?
Me: (I was taken aback by his answer. John 3:16 is the very first memory verse I memorized as a child.) It says that God loves us so much that He gave His Son who is Jesus Christ that whoever believes in Him will not perish but have everlasting life.
I: I invite you to come to our church and observe. Ask your queries and they will explain to you.
Me: I have nothing to ask. I understand your religion.
I: I can see that you have tons of questions and doubts in your mind. Come to our church and see. Don’t worry you will not be converted right away.
Me: I will go to your church if you will also come to our church. That’s a deal.
I: I was a Roman Catholic before so I know the beliefs and I don’t want to go back.
Me: I am not a Roman Catholic.
I: Your religion also believes in trinity which is similar to Catholic.
Me: I am willing to go to your church if you are also willing to come to our church.
I: I told you, I don’t want to go back.
Me: Then I can’t come.
(They are not allowed to attend another churches because if they would, INC would excommunicate [ititiwalag] them.)