Sitting across the table from a young mom, I listened to as she shared her story of shock, pain and grief. A twenty-four-hour whirlwind that forever changed her life. I recognized that no words spoken by me would ‘fix’ her situation. While my nearly untouched coffee became cold, my heart was beating with a desire to turn back the clock and rewrite her story with a different outcome. But life doesn’t work that way no matter how much we may desire it.
After pouring out in detail the events she walked through less than a year prior, she shared the journey she has been on since. Disillusionment. Grasping for understanding. She keeps life turning for her family while balancing her own emotions – and still grasping the reality of what happened. Listening to this young woman as a friend, my heart ached for her with each detail. Listening to her as a pastor, it brought so much more depth of understanding to the need I see for the body of Christ to create ‘safe places’ for the broken hearts around us.
Safe haven. That should be a great definition of the body of Christ. Yet reality often reminds us that the body of Christ is made up of humans that sometimes miss the mark.
Like when tragic events happen.
Too often we have a heart that just wants to see the other person healed. To see their situation turn around and make sense. In our true concern and desire to help, we go into autopilot with our words and actions. We grasp at the first thought that comes to mind as we desperately want to bring comfort. After all, we know all the Christian idioms, right?
“God has a plan.”
“It was their time.”
“He would not give you more than you can handle.”
“It must have been in His will.”
Sound familiar? Words that have meaning as they stand alone. Yet these words can also sound empty even as we speak them. Why? When words are spoken in autopilot mode and not Spirit breathed, they become as ‘sounding brass or a tinkling symbol.’ Each of these statements have truth. But unless they are ‘God breathed‘ for that time, place and person, they will fall to the floor empty. Those empty words can even pierce a heart with pain.
We are admonished to be ‘quick to listen and slow to speak.’ What would the body of Christ look like if we listened to each other completely? All the way. Allowing the story to flow freely and having our minds completely engaged with the conversation. Undistracted by our cellular devices or even our own running thoughts.
Although it was over twenty years ago, I can still hear the ‘comforting’ words of a dear friend after my miscarriage. “You are not the first person to have lost a child.” And as she walked away, I picked up my bleeding heart. That was an obvious statement. Yet I was grasping with more than the grief of losing my baby. Our church had been in the middle of a revival. Miracles had been happening. And we had chosen to delay the DNC in order to stand and believe for God’s healing touch. Now, I was not only grieving but facing the disappointment of not having my prayer answered. Not having the miracle others were seeing. What action gave me the most comfort? The friend who just came. The one who just was. No words needed. Just their presence. That action showed me their love for me was bigger than their need to help me.
Sometimes we are not ready to answer questions. Instead, we sneak in a church service late and sit in the back in hopes to hide. We are not ready for the questions or comments. The group of loved ones surrounding us for prayer can be smothering if we are not ready. So how do others that really love you know when to run to you and when to just sit and pray for you? When they take time to pause and listen to the Spirit’s whispered voice.
In this month where our society celebrates love, let’s examine our hearts. Do we love each other enough to stop, breath in the Spirit, listen to His counsel, and speak slowly? When reading the stories of Jesus, He doesn’t seem to be in a rush when He is giving answers. He didn’t even rush to Mary and Martha when their brother died. But He always did what His Father showed Him to do in a situation. Remember the the accusing crowd that brought an adulterous woman to Christ for judgement? He didn’t rush to answer but breathed in His Father’s thoughts, starting writing in the dirt, and made one comment. The crowd turned away. The situation diffused. All because He operated WITH His Father and the Spirit.
May we continue to grow in being Jesus with skin on!