By B.J. Funk –

When I was a little girl, I rode often with my mother to the home of a woman named Grace. Mother, Grace, and I rode around town, spending leisurely time away from Grace’s home which was located in an unkept section of our town. They just rode around and talked, while Grace wiped tears from her eyes. My place was to stay in the back seat and not ask questions, an almost impossible job for a child of five. Mother usually stopped to buy us each a delicious melt-in-your-mouth vanilla ice cream cone from Dairy Queen, my mother’s way of keeping my curious mind busy and my hands occupied.

One day I realized that Grace’s home was different from mine. It was actually an apartment, too crowded with children who looked like they had not bathed in a week and with a mother who never smiled.

Grace was the victim of spousal abuse. During our many trips to see Grace, my mother taught me about another kind of grace, the grace Jesus exemplified. She taught me grace without ever saying a word. I just watched and took in the sweet smell of grace that moved from my mother into Grace’s life, a no-cost gift of unconditional love. It landed on the heart of Mother’s friend with a touch of welcomed love, encouraging her with a fresh start for another day.

What I remember most about Grace’s bare apartment was the strong, overbearing, nauseating smell of Clorox, as if – I would surmise later – Grace tried to scrub away every heartache and every abuse. But Clorox could not wipe away sin. Its stench went into each hour of Grace’s day, touching every child in her home until Grace’s teenage daughter announced that she was pregnant with her own daddy’s child. That’s when I watched my quiet, southern mother get out of her high heels and step into shoes of faith. Moving way out of her comfort zone, she made arrangements for this daughter to go to a friend’s home in another state, a safe oasis where the baby could be born.

Mother knew that gossip would follow this young girl if she stayed in our town. She also knew she could receive disapproval from those whose critical attitude blamed the poor girl. My brave mother stood alone, surrounded by those yelling loud insults of hate, each firmly gripping a huge stone.

“Neither do I condemn you,” her actions whispered.

Years passed. Grace divorced, moved away and married again. Not much improvement in husbands. My mother kept in touch. She had the “each one reach one” attitude long before it was even popular in churches.

Grace’s church? Don’t believe she had one. Her biblical knowledge? Probably close to zero. Her love of hymns? She probably never heard one. But Grace’s understanding of grace? Off the charts because my mother showed unconditional love.

My mother and Grace left this earth many years ago, but I received lessons my Mother never realized from the backseat of her car. The definition of grace sank deeply into my spirit, where it planted itself in the soil of my soul. Mother watered it often, without ever saying a word. She lived grace. She was grace. 

I’ve been thinking a lot recently about the way the church evangelizes. There may be many effective ways, but mother’s backseat evangelism was the most effective for me. It’s called watching a Christian, listening to a Christian, receiving the beautiful truth of the gospel simply by observation of the way she lives her life. Daily, my dear mother watered the seed planted in the soil of my soul by the way she lived, by the kindness she placed at the feet of others, and for the many selfless acts she gave to the less fortunate. And I am unbelievably humbled by the knowledge that I, too, am the daughter of grace, a beautiful recipient of my mother’s grace filled life.

I don’t know about you, but I cannot handle an “in your face” evangelism that shouts at me with another’s need to bring me to Christ. That might work for some, but the single reason I am a believer today is because of my mother’s quiet and deeply beautiful life. She lived Jesus.

Give me backseat evangelism any day.


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