Of prank calls and humility

January 22, 2009 | 64 comments

One evening when I was in college some friends and I were sitting around in my dorm room, getting ready to head out to go to a party, when the phone rang. Caller ID showed that it was yet another telemarketer. Our number had been inundated with sales calls, and I was getting sick of it. We had some time to kill before we needed to leave, so I decided to have some fun with the telemarketer for my friends’ amusement.

I motioned for everyone to get quiet, clicked the speakerphone button, and answered the call. Immediately a middle-aged-sounding man began his pitch, announcing that he was with a local home services company and asking me leading questions about my carpet cleaning needs.

Doing a horrible imitation of an east Texas accent, I interrupted him to say, “I don’t believe in cleaning carpets.”

He paused. “Excuse me?”

“Sir, that kind of thing is against my religion, ” I said in a lecturing voice. The idea came to me to play the role of a religious zealot, to see if I could get the telemarketer to be the first one to hang up if I launched into a hellfire and brimstone lecture about how carpet cleaners were from the devil. Boy, wouldn’t my friends think that was hilarious — me, the consummate atheist, playing the character of a religious nut!

A bit hesitantly, he said, “Well, I’d never heard of that. What is your religion, if you don’t mind my asking?”

“I’m a Christian, of course!” I replied, raising my voice with the first syllable the way religious girls on my college campus always did when they talked about their faith.

“Oh, OK, ” he said. “Where do you go to church?”

That one caught me off guard. I could not think of the name of a single church off the top of my head, so I stammered, “The, uhh, Church of the…Bible.”

“Ooooh, ” he gushed, “Is that Covenant Bible Fellowship out in Huntsville? With pastor Mike?”

“Why, yes, it is, ” I said. “Pastor Mike is just darlin’, isn’t he?” I was trying to get back to the hilarity of my planned lecture about the evils of carpet cleaning, but the telemarketer’s enthusiasm derailed me again.

“How long have you been a Christian, ma’am?” he asked, then quickly added, “I apologize for the personal question, but it’s just a topic near and dear to my heart.”

“Well, I, uhh, accepted the Lord into my heart, umm, ten years ago, ” I said, mimicking the types of things I’d always hear my born-again Christian classmates say. “I, uhh, walk with the Lord every day.”

“God bless you, ” he said. “Just…God bless you. That is just so wonderful to hear.”

I glanced at my friends. I felt my face getting red. This was not the triumphant wit-fest that I had planned when I answered the call.

“I’ve got to tell you, the Lord has just…” he paused, obviously getting choked up. “The Lord has just done so much for me. I was away from him for so many years…and I accepted him into my heart two years ago…and my life has just been taken places I could have never imagined.”

“Well, how lovely, ” I said. I scanned the room for the handset to the phone but couldn’t find it. We were stuck on speakerphone. Out of the corner of my eye I saw my friends shift uncomfortably in their seats.

“I’m sorry, ” he said as his voice cracked. “It’s just that my life was such a mess. I was an alcoholic. My marriage was practically over. I was so depressed. And the Lord…the Lord healed me, healed my marriage. I haven’t had a drink in twenty-five months and six days. I could have never imagined that my life could be this good again, and I’m just so grateful. You know what I mean?”

No longer feeling like such a comic genius, I abandoned the plan of playing the church lady role and just tried to get myself off the phone as soon as possible. I didn’t know what to say. This poor man didn’t know he was talking to a militant atheist, and that a bunch of her atheist friends were listening in. “Ah, yes…” I muttered.

“I’m sorry, ” he said again, “It’s just so good to meet people like you, to come across fellow Christians when you least expect it.”

I wanted to crawl under my bed and never come out.

“Listen, ” he continued, “Don’t you even worry about any of this stuff I was trying to sell you. That’s not what matters. I’ll let you go enjoy your evening. Could I just ask you to keep me in your prayers?”

“Umm, sure.”

“I’ll pray for you too. God bless you, ma’am. God bless you and have a good night.”

“God bless you too, ” I stammered, forgetting to use my fake accent, and hung up the phone.

I turned to my friends; they were all silent. None of them were religious, most were atheists, and we never hesitated to ridicule Christians in our conversations. But this time nobody said anything. Seeing such a rare display of vulnerability and innocent sincerity had left us frozen, unsure of how to approach that kind of pure humility. In the silence that ensued it was clear that though he was the one who didn’t get the joke, it was I who was the fool.

Someone eventually forced an awkward chuckle, and someone else mumbled something about the call not going as planned, and we all got up to collect our things to go to the party. But before I left I glanced at the phone and thought of that man on the other end.

I thought of the warmth and love that had exuded from his voice, how he seemed to posses a level of hope and joy that somehow seemed both childlike and wise. It was something I did not see very often, but I always had a deep sense of wanting to experience more of it when I did. I thought of how he’d reached out to me as if I were a long-lost sister, how he’d assumed that I too had experienced something so sacred and so profound that it left you changed forever, feeling so overjoyed that you couldn’t help but share your elation with the world, even on telemarketing calls. “Do you know what I mean?” he had asked after telling me of how this God of his had taken a shattered mess of a life and restored it to something beautiful and whole. And as I closed my dorm room door, for a brief moment I wished more than anything that I did.

photo by ozlady


  1. Adoro

    Jen, this has to be one of your best posts EVER.

    Thank you.

  2. Michael Kellogg

    Great story. But where’s the happy ending? Did you eventually become a Christian?

  3. Kathleen

    Powerful is right! you were brave to share that story. I will always remember it.

  4. Multiple Mom T

    Thank you for sharing what I’m sure was a very awkward moment in your life.

  5. Megan@SortaCrunchy

    This blessed me beyond measure today, Jennifer. Thank you.

  6. The Wade's

    Wow. Such a great post and so wonderfully written!

  7. Julie C

    It seems to me that this man was put in your path by God, and you now know the reason. I was very moved by this – I have met people like him and they wear their hearts on their sleeves, living in such simplicity and gratitude to God for what they have received. God bless that dear man for revealing his heart to you. Julie

  8. Jennifer @ Conversion Diary

    Michael –

    But where’s the happy ending? Did you eventually become a Christian?

    Yes, I did. Years later. πŸ™‚

  9. Anonymous

    what a heartgentler

    He casts down the mighty from their thrones and lifts up the lowly..

  10. mom huebert

    I don’t know what to say. Except– this made me cry.

  11. Anonymous

    Wow, that is a powerful story! It left me in tears.

    Isn’t it amazing how God works on us, years before we really pay attention?


  12. Anonymous

    You are clearly under the mantle of Our Lady of Awkward Moments.

  13. beckygiggles

    I’m SO looking forward to your book.

  14. Ouiz

    That story just choked me up. We never, never know when the words we say will have a powerful effect on the one listening.

    God bless him… and God bless you for all the seeds that you have been planting faithfully since you started this blog.

    We’re going to be amazed when we stand before Him, and see how He used small moments that we’ve forgotten to reach others.

  15. Christine

    I am just glad he (the man on the phone) was willing to speak about his faith. So many people around me shut their mouths when questioned about what they believe. I love stories like this. Stories of hearts that have turned back to the right path.

  16. Kingdom Mama

    Oh my goodness Jen, I can’t believe you’ve never posted that before (although you’re never at a loss for good material!). Such a GREAT story! Humbling, powerful, and a wonderful example of how we (as evangelizing telemarketers) should live our lives.

  17. Jen

    Wow. What a beautiful post. What a powerful witness that man was for ALL of us. Just shows we never know who we will touch by our words. Thank you for sharing!

  18. Willa

    I read regularly but I don’t remember commenting before. I agree that this has to be one of your best posts ever. I grew up in an (evangelical) church, and several members had that kind of simple, loving soul. I never realized until just now how much they affected my life, even when I was doubting and falling away from my faith.

  19. Hannah

    Wonderful post – I know how you felt then. I still feel it, very often…

  20. Sam

    that is an amazing tale to tell. You just never know when or how God chooses to speak to you. I wonder if that salesperson remembers you.

  21. Amy

    Oh ouch!!! What an incredible story of one of God’s people living out loud… bless that man! I can’t wait to see your conversation with him in heaven one day…LOL!! Both of you will be gut splitting laughing our loud, I am sure…


  22. simplycatholic.net

    Fantastic post.

    Nothing really I could say or add, but what a beautiful illustration of “Rather, God chose the foolish of the world to shame the wise”

  23. Christine

    God surprises, still.

    Thank you for sharing.

  24. vmarijo

    I read your Blog often, but this is my first post.

    Beautiful story. I think many people can relate to this one.

    Was the first time you heard God knocking at the door?

  25. Luke

    That brought tears to my eyes.

    I’m the kind of guy who would have taken the time to dismantle your “religious beliefs” and point you back to “the truth” in Christianity. A very good, and painful, reminder that I should be more humble. Wonderful. Thank you.


  26. Jane

    Aren’t you gald he prayed for you?

  27. Anonymous

    I read regularly, and usually don’t comment. But that was amazing. Thank you.

  28. Scarlett

    What a powerful story!

  29. Frances

    Your book is going to be great – I can’t wait to read it!

  30. Blondie

    God is so good. He left that memory for you to reflect on years later, once you knew Him. Now He has allowed you to share that with us – blessing us and allowing us to share in the marvel of your Christian transformation!

    God is in the big things, God is in the small things, and God is in all things!

  31. Anonymous

    He prayed for you – and God answered his prayers. I am betting he knew that you had started the call with a very different intention.

    I would like to ask all your readers to join you in praying for him back. Those people who at the time we don’t get, but years later we see their part in God’s gentle leading; God bless them. Please bless them bigtime!!!

  32. Emily

    Wow. What an outstanding post. Thanks for sharing it, Jen.

  33. pharmgirl

    This was awesome. Thanks, Jen.

  34. Kimberlee

    That was a most beautiful post, and had me in tears as well. God is so good. Not only do you now have Faith, but also that same humility you sensed in that man as it took great humility to post this story. Deo Gratias!

  35. Michael Hallman

    So thanks for getting me all choked up πŸ˜›

    Seriously though, I filled up at this entry. It was beautiful. What a beautiful man. And you know what, he said he was going to pray for you, and we can probably be darn certain that he did. And look at you now! Who knows what grace that man’s prayers showered on you. I imagine you both will have a most beautiful reunion in heaven! Thank you for this most uplifting post!

  36. Anonymous

    Wow, I’m praying for him right now-a man like that probably doesn’t even remember b/c while it was a lightening bolt for you at the time for him he was just doing what he does, all very normal. You’re right in identifying it as humility b/c that’s the effect of humility it disarms (in the true sense of the word).Keep it up! You’re brilliant

  37. Kelly @ Love Well

    I’m breathless.

    What a powerful story, Jennifer. And you tell it so well. I feel like I was sitting in the room, an uncomfortable fly on the wall.

    God can use EVERYTHING, can’t He?

  38. Monnie

    This post gave me the chills. I had to read it aloud to my mom… and I got the chills A Second Time when I reread it!

    It’s a beautiful account of the workings of grace… and very well-told!

    I’m a practicing Catholic and have been all my life (I’m 22). I found your blog via my boyfriend’s linkage (http://borgablog.blogspot.com) and it looks like a fascinating story/journey to truth! I look forward to reading more…

    God bless!

  39. Agnes Regina

    Wow. That’s… incredible. God bless you both.

  40. noreen

    I don’t stop in at your blog often enough, but when I do, it’s exactly stories like this that I know I am meant to read. Thanks for sharing more of your journey.

  41. Em the luddite

    This is amazing. As a Christian academic who travels back and forth between worlds, it brought tears to my eyes to see that kind of communication happening in a format that would normally be the last place for it. I posted a link to it on my blog (a listening-blog; this seems a great story of listening, even accidentally). Thanks for it!

  42. Bella

    WOW. and I am sobbing. Thanks.

  43. Candace Jean July 16

    Still trying to choke down this lump in my throat. Best post written. Bless you.

  44. ~*Michelle*~

    WOW, amazing story.

    That man placed a seed in your heart….which I truly believe happens when we talk about the awesome God we serve. Seeds of faith that may take years to sprout in their lives….and most of the time we may never know how many people’s lives are changed by just a few simple words.

    Thank you for sharing this beautiful story.


  45. Cliff

    Found this via Merry’s Cloister. Amazing. πŸ™‚ I like stories like this…

  46. Short Stop

    Just amazing. I love this story and I LOVE that God works this way.

  47. Gray Matters

    This is my first visit to your blog. My relationship with God has changed dramatically over the last several years. I’m always intrigued by how people’s life experiences lead them to Him. Thank you for sharing your journey.

  48. Jean Stockdale

    Outstanding post. Thank you for sharing with such transparency. Blessings.

    Jean Stockdale
    “For I have determined to know nothing but Jesus Christ and Him crucified.” 1Cor. 2:2

  49. Tiff @ The Faery Inn

    What an amazing lesson…

  50. Amy Jane (Untangling Tales)

    Just: wow.

  51. THEhooahwife

    How beautiful! This made me tear up. Humility honestly can’t be trumped!

  52. Organizing Mommy

    God has his sense of humor. I want to pray for that man right now, even though it was probably several years ago that this happened. Thanks for a beautiful story.

  53. Amy Jane (Untangling Tales)

    I’m waiting for the follow-up post in 3-6 months where someone who’s heard the other side of the story writes to connect with you because of this post.

  54. Eric P.

    As I’ve always believed, God has a terrific sense of humor. Me, I’ve got a terrific lump in my throat.

  55. Coco Castle

    I like your site and honesty.

    Come visit my adventure if you please at powerofhumility.blogspot.com

  56. Diana


  57. thegypsymama

    Wow – so, what you're saying is that God has been after you for some time, eh? πŸ˜‰

  58. Ann Voskamp @Holy Experience

    I agree entirely.

    This is one of your best… and some pretty potent writing.

    Doesn't God write the best stories in our lives?

    Love to you, Jen…

    All's grace,

  59. Anonymous

    I am always amazed at how God can turn a bad situation into good. Truth will always trump evil. Holiness will always trump worldliness. Time and again, people think they control their lives, their own destiny but God is the creator of all and we all live within His creation and within his natural laws. Do what is right and you will prevail.

  60. Anonymous

    Keep it up and don't fail…from a reader in the Philippines:=)

  61. CatholicMom

    This was a really great story! I passed your link along to our parish deacon, as he might find this useful to re-tell during a homily πŸ™‚

  62. CatholicMom

    I noticed Julie C said this man was put in your path by God. I thought about that comment because I remember on a tv show (of all things) one character said that people are put in our lives for a reason (she was speaking about friends in particular but it probably goes with everyone we meet more or less).

    Of course, if we are Christian and playing our part as a Christian, we can touch the lives of everyone, even strangers just by a simple kindness (a smile, a kind touch, a bit of charity) and if they know you are Christian, they will possibly draw closer to God. πŸ™‚

  63. Louise

    What a beautiful story. And, yes, I bet you two will be great friends in heaven because of this brief connection.

    If he had found out at the time that you were a militant athiest trying to make a fool of him, he probably would have been mad or very embarrassed (at least I would have been). But look what God has done!

    I will try to keep that in mind if I ever find myself on his side of this kind of an exchange. Trust in God.

  64. Therese

    I love this story. I seems like it happened for a reason and wasn't random, perhaps it was planting the seed. I can't help but wonder if it affected any of your friends that night as much as it affected you. Thank you so much for sharing this with us. Therese


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