Vitality

Youth

Little Miss Anti-Sunshine

Christy Heitger-Ewing

As I turned to open my locker door I saw Breana rounding the bend. I glanced at my watch. It was 7:40 a.m.—the time when Little Miss Anti-Sunshine always plopped herself down by my locker and delivered her typical “gloom and doom” report on life.

Here we go again, I thought as I rolled my eyes.

“My life is over!” Breana announced, throwing her hands into the air. “Over!”

“Whatever it is, it can’t be that bad,” I said.

“Oh, yeah? Get this! Chad asked Lyndsey out. Not me. Lyndsey!”

I pulled my physics book from the locker and stuffed it into my backpack.“Hellllloooo!” Breana said, getting right up in my face. “Did you hear what I said? Has Chad lost his stinkin’ mind?”

Actually, I couldn’t blame Chad. Lyndsey was a sweet girl. Breana, on the other hand, was a walking, talking file of complaints. I’d never met anyone with a more negative attitude.

“What does Lyndsey have that I don’t?” Breana asked.

A smile, I thought. A nice laugh. A sweet personality.

But I kept quiet and shrugged my shoulders.“I dunno,” I said.

“Whatev,” Breana muttered with a frown. “He’s a jerk. And you know who else is a jerk? Mr. Migles. I heard he’s giving a pop quiz today.”

“Yeah,” I said. “He told us on Monday to expect one sometime this week.”

“Well, I’m not ready for it. If I bomb that quiz, it’s all your fault, Christy! I told you to email me your notes, but you never sent them.”

“Breana, you know I’m busy with sports and dance and youth group,” I said. “Besides, you should be taking your own notes.”

“I’m too tired to do that,” Breana whined. “My mom makes me babysit my annoying baby sister, and she wears me out.”

This is how it was with Breana. One complaint melded into another. And if she wasn’t grumbling about something relating to her own life, then she was busy ridiculing peers, friends or family.

When I first met Breana, I appreciated her free, independent spirit. I was fascinated by her ability to “let it fly”—to just say whatever came to mind. But after a while her spontaneity was overshadowed by her cynicism and negativity. I didn’t like how she always found fault in everyone and everything around her.

A decision to witness

“I can’t take it anymore,” I told my youth leader Carol after church one weekend. “Breana is so rude and obnoxious. It’s no fun being around her!”

“What do you know about her parents and her home life?” Carol asked. “Does she go to church?”

“I don’t know,” I said. “I’m afraid to ask about personal stuff. She’d probably jump down my throat.”

“Maybe, but I think you should give it a try,” Carol suggested. “It sounds like this girl desperately needs a Christian friend.”

No argument there. I just didn’t know if I had it in me to fill that void in Breana’s life. Being around her was exhausting. Still, I knew Carol was right. I decided that I should at least try to witness to Breana.

An invitation

“So, are you going to Rachel’s dumb study group on Wednesday?” Breana asked as she sat down next to my locker at her usual time.

“Nope,” I said. “I’ve got youth group.” I hesitated for a moment, then asked kind of softly, “Do you wanna come along?”

Breana’s eyebrows shot up like I’d just invited her to dinner at the White House.“You’re joking, right?” she asked.

“No,” I said. “I just thought you might like meeting some new people.”

“No offense, Christy, but church folk . . .” Her voice trailed off. “They’re too goody-two-shoes for me.”

“It’s not like that,” I insisted. “The kids in my youth group are funny and smart and fun to hang out with.”

“I wouldn’t fit in. Trust me,” she insisted. Then she said something that shocked me. “Thanks for the invite, though.”

Saved by the art show

I knew Breana was into arts and crafts, so I made a point to tell her about my church’s upcoming art festival.

“I’m in big trouble, though,” I said. “Because I’m in charge of the youth booth at the festival, and I’m blanking on ideas for what to make and sell.”

Breana’s eyes lit up.

“I can throw out some suggestions,” Breana said with a smile.

I think it was the first time I’d seen a smile cross Breana’s face. It was so refreshing to see.

Over the next few weeks Breana did far more than brainstorm ideas for the youth booth. She made all sorts of cool homemade purses, hair ties, magnets, and bookmarks. Then she insisted on coming to church to set up and work the booth. It was amazing to see God’s work unfold right before my eyes.

Throughout the weekend a ton of people stopped by Breana’s booth to compliment her on her artwork. She received so much positive attention that she was beaming with pride and smiling nonstop.

It seemed impossible that in just a few short weeks a person could transform from a snarky, moody pessimist into a happy, friendly soul. But I witnessed it—through witnessing!

A new attitude

The following Monday as I turned to open my locker door, I saw Breana rounding the bend at her usual time. Only she wasn’t acting like her usual self.

“That was such a great weekend!” Breana exclaimed.

“All because of you,” I said. “You did a fabulous job!”

“Ah, thanks,” she said, blushing a bit. “You know, your church people are really nice. A bunch of them invited me to worship next weekend.”

“And what do you think of that?” I asked.

“I dunno,” Breana said. “I don’t know much about God.”

“There are no prerequisites,” I assured her. “Just come with an open heart.”

“Let me think about it,” she said.

Over the next few months I didn’t push Breana to attend church. But I did begin to talk to her about my faith. She didn’t always say much, but she seemed intrigued. She even began asking questions about the Bible. She also wanted to know what I did at youth group.

Slowly Breana’s attitude began to change. She smiled more than she frowned, she laughed more than she moped and she took note of the good in people rather than highlighting the bad.

Then one day when Breana plopped down by my locker she asked, “Do you think I could go to church with you this weekend?”

“Definitely,” I said. “That would be awesome!”

Breana smiled, and I smiled back.

It seemed that my daily “gloom and doom” reports were officially over. Yippee!

Witnessing to friends

Have you ever been given wonderful news? Isn’t it fun to share that good news with others? That’s how it is with the gospel as well. Every day you get the chance to spread good news by telling those around you about Jesus. Peace, redemption, eternal life—who wouldn’t be intrigued to learn more?

Romans 10, verses 14 and 17, says: “How then shall they call on Him in whom they have not believed? And how shall they believe in Him of whom they have not heard? And how shall they hear without a preacher?” “So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.”

It’s hard to imagine not wanting to learn more about Christ, but the truth is that non-Christians often feel uneasy when it comes to discussing God. They may feel reluctant to ask questions about faith and Christianity. Therefore, witnessing involves more than just talking about God and sharing Scripture. Usually it starts with demonstrating His love and acceptance through your actions.

Proverbs talks about the importance of establishing close friendships. Proverbs 27:9 states: “Ointment and perfume delight the heart, and the sweetness of a man’s friend gives delight by hearty counsel. Do not forsake your own friend or your father’s friend.”

When I opened up to Breana about my faith, I took baby steps. I didn’t push church down her throat, nor did I lecture her on the importance of building a relationship with God. Instead, I gently led her to the Lord. I planted the seed, and God watered it.

“For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast” (Ephesians 2:8, 9).

This article originally appeared in Insight Magazine, October 2012.

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