Many years have passed since that awkward attempt, and I’ve learned a few things along the way. Here they are:
Christ should be as natural in your public life as in your private life.
Too often, I’ve seen people either take the mention of the Lord out of circumstances in which they would normally speak of Him, or they try to stuff Him into conversations in which they would not normally speak of Him.
For example, if you would normally say, “Oh, thank You, Lord!” when something amazing happens, then say it. If you would normally say, “Look at that gorgeous snow. Isn’t God so creative?” then say that. Don’t find a less religious phrase to use just because you’re in the company of a non-Christian friend. Be exactly as Christian in public as you would be at home.
Conversely, if you would not normally mention the Lord when you’re discussing homework with a fellow classmate, or meeting with a co-worker, then you don’t have do it. Your inclusion of the Lord’s name will be as awkward and unnatural for you as it will be for the other person, and will come off artificial.
It’s as easy as talking about your own father. No one goes around telling people all the time “My dad says this” or “My dad expects that,” but there are certainly occasions when Dad’s wisdom or rules apply to the situation. Knowing your Heavenly Father is like that. If the Lord is the center of your life, He will come out in what you say and do.
If you don’t know an answer, that’s okay.
Suppose someone asked you, “What is your dad’s name?” You would be able to tell him. Now suppose, during the conversation, that this person asks to know your dad’s favorite color, and you don’t know it. Would you panic and think, “Now he won’t believe that I know my dad because I don’t know Dad’s favorite color!” or “Now he won’t believe my dad exists because I can’t give an answer!” No. You would simply say, “I don’t know. I’ll ask my dad when I next see him.”
Often, we put pressure on ourselves to know all the answers when, in reality, we don’t have to. Yes, we should always be ready to give an answer for the hope that is in us. No, there is no excuse for not knowing an answer because you have neglected to study your Bible. But there is also no reason to think you need to know everything. If you don’t know something, have the honesty to admit it, the humility to hear the other person’s perspective, and the commitment to get back to that person (if possible) with a more well-thought answer.
It’s not up to you.
Jesus said all the right things and did all the right deeds, and people still rejected Him. Similarly, you can say the exact right thing at the exact right time, and still have no effect. If God does not give sight, they will not see.
In the same way, you could say something that you consider completely moronic, and God can use it. One day, I had a spiritual conversation with a friend, and we got off on a rabbit trail about the story of John the Baptist. I thought that conversation was a complete waste of time. Not so. A few days later, my friend bounced up to me. “Do you remember how we talked about John the Baptist? Well, I was curious about the rest of the story, so I opened up my Bible and the page fell open to the exact place that talked about him. I read all about him—and more besides!” I was completely humbled. What I thought was a rabbit trail was really God tapping into her curiosity.
Sure, you should be prepared to speak the truth well, but realistically, it’s not up to you. Do your part—and leave the rest up to God.
None of my life has gone the way it was "supposed to go," but I don't love my life any less because of the hardships and new directions. I see so much unexpected good in it, and I want others to see the good in theirs.