A Gentle Voice

They say most people would rather do the following than attend a family function with certain relatives:

  • Be poked in the eye with a sharp stick (16%)
  • Get a case of hemorrhoids (12%)
  • Swallow a live bug (12%)
  • Get audited by Revenue Canada (11%)
  • Clean the toilet (9%)

When it comes to conflict, silence or violence are too often the dead end streets we go down. There must be a better way. I usually prefer to avoid conflict in order to keep the peace. However, I’ve discovered that peace keeping doesn’t work when the situation needs to change. When a relationship is dying from lack of respect, or when someone is being hurt by a corrupt system, we must speak out, or we risk becoming an accomplice to another’s suffering. Proverbs affirms this by saying,

“Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves, for the rights of all who are destitute. “ (Prov. 31:8)

The challenge for me is how to confront with love and gentleness. On the surface it seems naïve to think we can confront that way, however, the example of Jesus shows us it can be done. Matthew saw in Jesus, the fulfillment of Isaiah’s prophecy when he wrote,

“A bruised reed he will not break, and a smoldering wick he will not quench, until he brings justice to victory.” (Matt. 12:20; Isaiah 42:3)

The apostle Paul similarly taught that,

“ . . . the Lord’s servant must not be quarrelsome but kind to everyone, able to teach, patiently enduring evil, correcting his opponents with gentleness.” (2 Tim. 2:24,25)

I believe that when we approach conflict from a heart of peace rather than a heart of war and when we speak out of a place of respect and non judgement, it’s easier to stay focused on the issues. When the accusations become personal and the emotions escalate, communication breaks down and no resolution is found.

I’ve discovered that whenever I doubt the motives of others and believe the best about myself, I contribute to the problem and often end up eating humble pie. However, if I will instead believe the best about others and doubt my own intentions, knowing how complicated the heart can be, I may find enough humility and peace of heart to get a conversation started. In conflict, communication is the goal. We are trying to add to the pool of meaning. It’s not about being right or looking good, it’s about understanding others and ourselves better.

“If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all.” Romans 12:18

Risk Valuing Others

The Most Important Thing In Life Is To Learn How To Give Out Love And To Let It Come In

“There can be no peacemaking or social work or anything else to improve our world unless we are convinced that the other is important.”  Jean Vanier.

One person who sees the value in another can alter that person’s life.  I would like to be that person to someone just as I have needed someone like that in my life.  The truth I sometimes face is that valuing others can feel risky.   How do I view other people with value and overcome the darker urge to one up them?  If I lift others up, does that mean I’m putting myself down? What if my service to others is really about needing to be a Savior to someone?

“How hard it is for people to live without someone to look down upon- really look down upon.  It is not just that they feel cheated out of someone to hate.  It is that they are compelled to look more closely into themselves and what they don’t like in themselves.”   Martin Luther King Jr.

The walls of our world are most often created by a fear that someone else’s success or prosperity is a threat to mine.   The competitive drive that motivates so much of modern society is based upon this self protective insecurity.    The divisions in our world between rich and poor, good and bad, powerful and powerless, result is broken relationship and distrust.  The end game becomes, get more power than the next guy.

Behind the falsehood, what we so often dread deep within, is the feeling that we are of no value or that we are not loved.

“When you look at all these kinds of fear, the common denominator is the fear of being pushed down or being seen as valueless or non existent. “ Jean Vanier

The antidote to fear is to grow in the understand and experience of the love of God.  Being secure in the knowledge of God as lover of my soul, overcomes the worry and strain of working at being worthy.   Then our living is free and our love is genuine.  As God fills our emptiness with his abundance of love and grace, we are able to risk loving and valuing others.

……..that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.  Eph. 3: 18,19

 

 

Jesus in Disguise

Being present with people in conversation and living in the moment, isn’t always something that comes natural, at least to me. Perhaps this woolgathering comes from insecurities or my short attention span. Being on the introverted side of the personality scale, I know I can be less interested in small talk and tune out unless the subject grabs me.

In an attempt to overcome inner obstacles to being present with others it helps me to remember Jesus words,

“For where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I among them.” Matt. 18:20.

He is putting a value on human relationships in promising that this is a place where God shows up.

It is a worthy desire to seek after an encounter with God. Through the centuries people pursued these experiences through prayer and solitude and truly this is one of the most important spiritual paths. We discover the depth of God when we develop an inner stillness that allows his presence to be recognized and our earthly self to be quieted. However, bringing this sense of being present with God into relationships can be a challenge. We might even conclude that it’s easier to avoid relationships. Yet, God himself dwells in the perfect relationship of Father, Son and Spirit.

Being a pastor I am called upon to be with people in their difficult times, to listen and learn and see God as a present helper. However, today’s leaders are often conditioned to believe that it is the big events in front of the crowds that matter most. We might even begin to believe that one on one encounters aren’t that important in the work of God. If we think this way we will miss many opportunities to see God in the disguise of another human being. It seems from Jesus words that no encounter with another person is trivial to God.

When someone like mother Teresa says she saw Jesus in others she reminds me that God can be encountered in the ordinary interactions of life. She says,

“We try to pray through our work by doing it with Jesus, for Jesus, to Jesus. That helps us to put our whole heart and soul into doing it. The dying, the cripple, the mental, the unwanted, the unloved they are Jesus in disguise.”

With this open hearted approach, self is forgotten and God is discovered in even the uncomfortable conversations of our lives.