Sometimes I get stuck in a bubble of people just like me. Recently, I sat down with a wife, mommy, and atheist. Her perspective on Christian missionaries was fascinating to me. What is a missionary through the eyes of an atheist? Wishing to remain anonymous, she has kindly shared her recent experience befriending a missionary.
How did you meet this new missionary?
My husband and I planned on moving to a new town and during a visit we stopped off at the park to let the kids roam for a bit. A really nice guy came over. He was a father of kids the same age, and also new to town. He introduced me to his wife and we connected.
At what point did you realize you were friends?
We stayed in touch and visited for playdates over time. We got close. After I had my third child they brought us a meal. They arrived unannounced and when I opened the door my friend and her husband were there with gifts for the baby. When she saw me in full jammie mode I didn’t have to say a thing, she said, “Kevin, leave NOW!” I told her I was going to change my clothes and she said, “don’t get dressed, just relax.”
She understood how I was feeling without having to say a word. What matters to me most is that she loves me in my imperfection and is not afraid to share her imperfections with me too.
How do you really feel about religion?
I want nothing to do with religion. In fact, I am in a facebook group for moms that are atheist!
Why are you friends with a missionary if you want nothing to do with religion?
I’m open to friendship with anyone who is supportive, real and non-judgemental. I am not afraid to have friends that don’t agree with me on everything.
What’s the biggest concern about Christian or Catholic Missionaries?
There’s a fear that missionaries befriend you with an expectation that you will join their church.
How do you know this missionary is being authentic?
I was afraid she wouldn’t be my friend if she knew I was atheist. One day our husbands were out of town and we got the kids together. She asked me about my family values and we had “the talk.” She was curious how I could be both atheist and live by Christian moral principles. I grew up with religion but I had some bad experiences and I don’t believe there is a God. As this all came out I could see that she was just as scared that I wouldn’t want to be friends with her. She told me we didn’t have to talk about it if I didn’t want to --and I appreciated this-- but I was happy to go there. I think we both wanted to know if our friendship could survive these differences.
Over the next couple of weeks, we continued to reach out to each other and that’s when I knew she was in it for the long haul. She’s there for me when I need her and I know I can trust her.
For my atheist friend, a missionary looks like, a friend. This missionary is another mom in her life who knows her, loves her and accepts her. She’s a friend that can be vulnerable enough to share her own shortcomings and struggles. She’s a woman who is generous with her time and attention without taking her eyes off her primary duties. She’s also courageous enough to broach tough topics and to listen carefully to someone who lives differently. She is truly in it for the long haul out of love for her Lord and her friend. This is an example of generosity, acceptance and building trust.