One of my first opportunities to talk about my faith within a secular environment came while I was at work. I was on break, maybe at lunch in the break room, and the only other person at work who was my age was also there. We'll call her Melissa.
So Melissa and I were chatting. I was thinking then of going to law school, and she was thinking of going back to graduate school to study something like social work. We were talking about the future and where we were heading. Turns out that she almost went to law school, and I was a social work major for a very short time during undergrad. I asked her why she didn't want to go to law school. Then she asked me why I decided not to do social work.
And I remember really clearly that I told Melissa the story of how God had brought some emotional healing into my life. The reason I didn't go into social work is because I think that true life-change and healing comes within true community relationships with people who really know you--at least, that's been my experience. While I think there's a reason for the clinical setting in many cases, I've had the blessing of a rich spiritually-based community where the people around me are challenging me and helping me to grow. And no matter how much a professional listens to you, she doesn't really offer unconditional love. And I told her how my friends had offered that and how much it changed my life. I told her how I believed that God met me through that community in some really difficult times.
It was a really simple conversation. We didn't end by talking about church or God or Jesus, even. But that conversation opened the door to talking about faith and spiritual things - for both her and me. And as time went on, we did talk about a lot of deeply spiritual topics, and she initiated many of them.
Conversations about the spiritual are natural. We're spiritual beings, and if that part of your life is important to you, it's very natural that it will come out during some conversations. The first step toward spiritual conversations for me, though, has consistently been to share something from my own life. I never start with a list of all the beliefs I hold. I don't start by making judgmental comments about how horrible the world is or how someone's actions are "sinful" or even "wrong." I don't even really talk about the fact that I'm a Christian.
Instead, the natural bridge for me has been talking about something God has done in my life or talking about why I've made some of the choices I've made. And because that sharing comes as a natural part of a relationship, I've been able to continue walking beside people as a friend and sometime spiritual mentor over a long time.