I Am a Loss Leader!
Way back in the 1980s I was a marketing student. There was a common business term in those days, “loss leader.” It referred to a product that was highly promoted and sold below market value in order to get more customer traffic into the store. The strategy was used in the hope that customers would buy enough other items to more than make up the loss, while still feeling good about the “great deal” they made. It produced both goodwill and good profits. Marketing days long behind me, I don’t know if there is a new name for this old strategy, but the most well-known examples of this today are the “Black Friday” deals.
Why would I compare myself to a marketing strategy? I do it because our Lord, in all of His goodness, has invested countless “resources” and graces into my life with a very paltry return. A modern-day prodigal, I ran away from Him and His ways as soon as I was able and didn’t look back for many years. But even though I received the greatest of graces, mercy and being welcomed back into His Church, His “profit” from me is negligible. Indeed, I am no unprofitable servant. That would imply that the Lord somehow “broke even” on me, but He is actually taking a loss! Nothing I can do could ever compare to the sacrifice Jesus made for me through His passion and death on the Cross. Beyond even that, nothing could come close to paying my debt for the gifts of life, for His divine providence, for a husband, for children, for family, for friends, for the Church and for everything I have. I give so little in return.
What can I, little and unprofitable as I am, do to thank so gracious a Lord? Be a “loss leader”! Using the simple formula, “I was…Jesus did…I am…” I can bring “foot traffic” into God’s Church by demonstrating what a “bargain” God gives us in a life of grace, in exchange for our sins and our meager love.
I Was…Jesus Did…I Am…
This simple little formula is a way that any Christian can witness to what Jesus has done for them in a short, non-confrontational way. It is very difficult to argue with someone’s personal testimony and there seems to be great grace in opening hearts hidden in the true stories of conversion and new life. I have done a tiny bit of public speaking and always get quite nervous, but this is something so simple that even I can do it without breaking a sweat. When someone asks us for a reason for our faith and hope in Christ, St. Peter tells us to “always be ready to give an explanation” (1 Peter 3:15). So practice a few times. Just a few sentences are sufficient for each of the three parts. No need to memorize. Let the Holy Spirit stay in charge, but practice is always a good idea. It allows you to become comfortable with how the Holy Spirit will work and adapt to the ears of the listener.
I was living a life of constant depression and anxiety which I couldn’t figure out. I had a good life with all of the trappings a thirty-something could desire, including a wonderful, loving husband, but was still desperately sad and lonely. Then one day, by pure grace, I opened the door to my heart just a crack by telling Jesus honestly that my life didn’t seem to be working like it was supposed to and asking Him what I should do about it. Jesus immediately flooded my heart with peace and a feeling of love I had never experienced in my life. He gently brought me to see that my life choices were leading me away from love and peace and not toward it. I immediately knew He was right and wanted, more than anything in the world, that peace He had given me to remain. I asked Him to forgive my sins and lead me into this new life in Him. He was faithful to that and now I am joyfully back in the Church I spurned as a 17-year-old child. I am now living a life that is, like everyone else’s, challenging and sometimes downright hard and painful, but is also joyful and peaceful to the core, because I know who I am living for and I know whose I am.
You can probably find twelve things wrong with that little witness, theologically or otherwise. But the point is that the Holy Spirit brings up different tidbits every time I tell it, depending on what the individual listener needs to hear. Sometimes that individual is deeply wounded and I share something of my own wounds. Sometimes the individual has a problem with some facet of religion and the Holy Spirit works a short word of apologetics into the witness. All that is required of me, this little loss leader, is to pray to the Holy Spirit first and humbly open up my life to the curious seeker He has placed before me. It requires a bit of vulnerability, but the effects are always astounding beyond what any natural work of mine could possibly be.
I have no list of accomplishments to offer Jesus. I have no “mighty deeds,” no wonderful works that I have done in gratitude for His mercy and grace. But that’s okay. His mercy and grace are free gifts. What Jesus wants in return is my love and my will, aligned with His for His glory, the salvation of souls, and yes, even for my own good. As I continue to faithfully try to do the duty of the moment, successfully or not, He can take that little loss-offering and transform it into grace that will draw another eternally beloved soul to Him.
The Icing on the Cake
In the end, Jesus doesn’t need our help to save souls in the least. But this is one more gift He gives us: the opportunity to take part in His salvific work. Someone once described it this way: a mother was icing a cake and her child asked if she could help. Did the mother need the child’s help? No. Would the mother be able to finish icing the cake more easily without the child’s “help”? Most certainly, yes! But the mother wants to give this little gift of “being a helper” to her child and so helps her to pick up the spatula and make a bit of a mess of the almost perfect cake. In this imperfection is her union with the child. In the imperfection of our little offerings is our union with our God.
I don’t think I will ever be offering to God any outward apostolate, nor mighty deeds. But I pray I continue to be His little loss leader, open and malleable to His Spirit whenever He asks me to step out and tell another soul about the free gift of His grace and mercy and the freedom to be found therein.