My lovely niece, Abigail, received something worrisome the other day in the mail. Without going into too much detail, it was a bill from an institution for a late cancellation fee. The problem? That same institution was the reason for the late cancellation. I helped her write an appeal letter and they denied it and said that they don’t make exceptions at all (Then what is the point of the appeal process? It’s like someone telling you “No…but ask me again.” and when you do…”No!” That drives me crazy…I digress.)
The other day, I received a call from a woman who is in a dangerous relationship. She is living in a shelter with her daughter and she was considering returning to her home with her husband. She had made a clear expectation of what she would require from him in order to feel safe enough to return home and he had not met that expectation. But she was itching to go home…she didn’t like the inconvenience and she had started blurring the boundaries for safety she had drawn in her own mind.
Last week, Michaela was upset about a poor performance on a test in school and was getting pink-faced and blurry-eyed about it. I held her and comforted her but she was struggling with her own disappointment in herself.
Interestingly, I told each lady the same thing: “The best thing you can do right now, is be obedient to God right now.” (Yes, I recycle my advice…ha!) This was on the tip of my tongue with each lady because it is what I have personally been hearing from God for some time now. I’m reading a book called “Strengthening the Soul of Your Leadership: Seeking God in the Crucible of Ministry” and at the very beginning, she draws an analogy:
“But one of the things I know for sure is that those who are looking to us for spiritual sustenance need us first and foremost to be spiritual seekers ourselves. They need us to keep searching for the bread of life that feeds our own souls so that we can guide them to places of sustenance for their own souls. Then, rather than offering the cold stone of past devotionals, regurgitated apologetics or someone else’s musings about the spiritual life, we will have bread to offer that is warm from the oven of our intimacy with God.”
Other than the words about “musings” bothering me (Ha!) this really resonated with me. How many times have I been struggling with something only to find that, what I am offered by those trying to help me, are simply platitudes…cliches? That has never lightened my burden. It has only added weight to the load that I was already carrying (and of course allowed them to wash their hands of the situation without entering into the mess) because it requires mental energy and time to address the “truth” that was just shared with me. For example, when I was going through treatment from the poisoning aftermath, there were those who made that hell all the more difficult with comments like, “If you think more positively, you’ll get better.” (translation: you are in charge of how you feel so you are choosing to be sick.) “Your treatment seems too extreme, I think you should find a new doctor.” (translation: if I undermine your doctor or treatment, then I can believe that what you are experiencing is not as severe as you let on.) (or my favorite “The pain is probably all in your mind.” (translation: crazy, whacko, nut job! You are already struggling with this…let me just add a good dose of self-doubt to the mix and see what happens.) Bottom line? They were making it clear to me that they were not safe people for me.
What is the point? I’m getting there. I think that we are called to be an assistance to the wounded who are around us…help carry the burden with them…enter in…get messy. But before we can do that well, we have to be willing to sit in our own mess and be real with God. We have to shut up and hear what he is telling us so that we can share that truth with other people when we enter into their broken places with them. To do otherwise is a disservice and only adds to their burden.
So how are you doing with this? Do people turn to you for help? What are you offering them? Warm bread or stale cracker? Who do you turn to when you need wise counsel? How can we do this better? How are we showing Jesus to the world?
My prayer today is that we would invest more in our people and in our time with God. I’m praying that we would get comfortable being uncomfortable and messy and that we would love God deeply, be loved by God deeply, and respond in the only appropriate way: by loving people deeply.
Much love friends,