Have you ever shown up, rearing to go – with an agenda in hand, prepared to predict others’ next moves and control the outcome of the experience you’ve just entered – only to encounter others who seem to be ill-prepared, slow on the uptake, or just flat-out lost? All too often, we start our days with a clean slate that we quickly fill up with our “to do” lists. We draw a small square and write the task next to it. Once the task is complete, we mark it off by placing an X inside the square. The object is to have as many boxes with Xs as possible at the end of the day. On those days, accomplishments mean the most. We don’t even consider the miniscule effort it would take to initiate an exchange with those running, seemingly stuck, in first gear. What does it take…a little patience.
What about the souls impacted by the pursuit of results that ignores their present day experience and lacks the attention, compassion, and kindness needed to embrace them into this moment? In that instance, what we don’t know may not hurt us but it could feel crushing to them. What we don’t know is what it took for them just to show up and be physically present in the situation that you and I are hurriedly moving and check-listing our way through. We think that slowing down and connecting causes us to lose time; when in fact, it more likely causes us to gain connection with the fragile souls around us. A sixty-second conversation, a slight touch of the hand, a smile, a soft-spoken “hello”… What does it take…a little kindness and attention.
Instead of listening and being a witness, we act… as the final arbiter. What we see, we label. What we hear, we snicker at. What we think we know, we judge. The reality is typically a deprivation of some sort resulting in a fog of confusion that consumes the rocky path that is this person’s journey right now. Our insensitivity can create storms of fear and shame of colossal proportion that causes greater withdrawal into the internal killing fields of doubt and regret located in their empty or broken hearts. Our harsh words sound like the echo of thunder. Our insensitive tone scorches like a bolt of lightning – feeling like the swell of misery or a flood of destruction. Some hide the pain behind good manners with a smile while others change colors and lose affect. Some resiliently snap back. Others, well…not so much. What does it take…a little sensitivity.
Job 16:3-5 tells us, “3 Your long speeches never end! Why do you continue arguing? 4 I also could say the same things you say, if you had my troubles. I could say wise things against you and shake my head at you. 5 But I would say things to encourage you and give you hope. (ERV)
MercyMe captures the thoughts of the resilient with faith, praying for escape, but who were blessed with the upbringing in His teachings in I can Only Imagine:
I can only imagine what it will be like when I walk by your side. I can only imagine what my eyes will see when your face is before me. I can only imagine… Surrounded by Your glory, what will my heart feel? Will I dance for you Jesus or in awe of you be still? Will I stand in your presence or to my knees will I fall? Will I sing hallelujah, will I be able to speak at all? I can only imagine…
Oh how blessed we are when we encounter the resilient. They are the faces of God’s grace. Because of the single set of footprints in the sand, we are able to push the restart button; the one that allows us to say, “I’m sorry! Let me try this again”; one that allows the tape to replay carols of compassion instead of chords of criticism, the harmony of forgiveness instead of the sharpness of fear, or melodies of stillness instead of the staccato of shame. Psalm 37:24-26 tells us, “24 If they fall, it isn’t fatal, for the Lord holds them with his hand. 25 I have been young and now I am old. And in all my years I have never seen the Lord forsake a man who loves him; nor have I seen the children of the godly go hungry. 26 Instead, the godly are able to be generous with their gifts and loans to others, and their children are a blessing. (TLB) What does it take…a little compassion.
I dare not mention the frail. We have not walked a mile in their moccasins and therefore do not know their circuitous, tumultuous journey or their condition upon arrival. Third Day illustrates this point in I Need A Miracle when they sing: He lost his job and all he had in the fall of ’09. Now he feared the worst, that he would lose his children and his wife. So he drove down deep into the woods and thought he’d end it all and prayed, “Lord above, I need a miracle”. Through love, we can be that miracle. Our requirement is to refrain from placing His children in boxes and to put away the Xs. They are His essence, not inane objects bristled between tasks. We all have hearts that pump blood and chambers that long for trust-filled loving connections. A little warmth, kind words, and a smile may serve to obscure the shelves that house permanent solutions when temporary problems are all that are on the table. Hebrews 12:14-15 calls us to: “14 Pursue the goal of peace along with everyone… 15 Make sure that no one misses out on God’s grace…” (CEB) What does it take…a little love.
This recent revelation has led me to understand that we are called to:
- Serve as guiding lights to one another; not to serve as driving rains that obscure the vision of others and make their paths slick
- Serve with patience, kindness, compassion and sensitivity
- Pave the road according to His will, not our agenda
- Recognize that we each have different talents and separate challenges And
- Remember to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace
Storms will blow in with gale force winds that lift the covers of certainty off our circumstances. The driving rains will spin our schedules into a whirlpool that drains our best laid plans. Hurricanes will blow ashore and knock out our power for long periods. Torrential downpours will cause landslides that we may never fully recover from. With capacity, faith, and other followers, weathering the storms is merely a foot race. Without the capacity to have faith, followers must be the candlelight for others from the edges to the eye.
Whether this seems sobering or intoxicating, a cocktail of one part forgiveness, one part faith, and two parts love, shaken (not stirred) over cubes of His grace, creates a smooth thirst-quencher that is easy for any consumer to swallow. Psalm 107:28-30 says 28 Then they cry to the Lord in their trouble, and he saves them. 29 He calms the storm and stills the waves. 30 What a blessing is that stillness as he brings them safely into harbor! (TLB)