Remembering takes a lot of imagination.
In the book Stumbling on Happiness, author Daniel Gilbert talks about how science is showing that memory is not a video that we play back, but that it is constructed with parts that we know or believe to be true already. To demonstrate Gilbert describes a scenario where a person approaches a stranger to ask for directions. During their conversation two people pass between them carrying a large wooden door. Unknown to the stranger the person asking for directions is changed to someone else who has made no effort to look like the first. The conversation continues as if nothing has happened.
If it is difficult for our brains to hold information that describes a person in a brief encounter like this one, it may be that our memory for details of our own past are not as sharp as we believe it to be.
When we are trying to motivate people to make a change (i.e. trust Christ) it is unlikely that we can remember with enough certainty where we came from. Let’s face it, whether you had a very strongly moral and upstanding life before Christ or you were a major drug dealer, your current life is so different that it is like trying to feel warm on a winter day by remembering the heat of summer. Besides, your story is not someone else’s story. In fact even witnesses to your story will remember things that you have forgotten and have a different perspective for the simple reason that they are not you.
To be effective change agents, we need to listen to the people we are with. They are going to be able to tell us more than we can remember well about our own lives because they are living their life at this moment. It is foolish to assume that everyone has a God-shaped hole (even if they really do) without first seeing if they believe that they do. Listen for what is missing. Listen to what place God could occupy. Step into their life with them and see it from the inside perspective, as if you were not just in their shoes but if you were actually occupying their body.
No, I am not saying that you need to have an out-of-body experience to talk to someone about faith matters, but it is vital to step outside our own misgivings, assumptions, beliefs, and attitudes and move into really learning what it is like in their private world. With that sort of connection you can begin to broach matters of faith in a way that can really mean something to the other person. Otherwise you may come away feeling like you accomplished something, but really what you got was the empty grin.