Andrew and I visited our old Sunday morning shepherding group today and we had an interesting speaker. I scratched down notes as quickly as I could because I thought he had some great perspectives and I wish we would have had more time with him.
The first subject that caught my attention was that of pain. He says that one thing that sets America apart from most other cultures is our pursuit of a pain free society. I let my mind wander a bit trying to decide if I thought that was true or not. I thought about the natural laboring that women do around the world, the miles of walking in no shoes, cooking over a hot fire, etc. When I was in Mongolia the balance that the missionaries wanted to have was that they help with physical needs and meet people in their practical pain but also that they don't lose their focus of meeting the underlying bigger need of Jesus. Our speaker suggested that God uses pain to direct us where to go and when we only seek to alleviate that pain we've eliminated a drive in our lives.
So I thought about my own pain. I've learned so much from the pain I've walked through. I didn't take anything away from the pain I ran away from. Short term I was more comfortable, but long term I was left weaker because going through my pain actually made me stronger. Let's take a sports analogy; had my coaches taken away the pain of the training that took place in practice and in the weight room I never would have had the strength to compete in the games or been able to experience success on the court. My trial and error in practice, and the repetition of doing things the right way prepared me to have the right reactions in the game.
The speaker, who works in recovery ministries, stressed the long term importance of not stepping in to ease people's pain but to walk beside them through it. I missed some of the next part but he said as they are coming through their pain our role should be to be committed to the truth, both the truth of God's word and telling the truth. There's no point in putting frosting on a pile of dog poo, it's still dog poo at the core. Let's not pretend that everything's the proverbial "Fine. How are you?" all the time, and let's not allow others to do that either. The vital part of truth is grace. We all know our own biggest failings and faults in painful detail but the rest of the story is that Jesus Christ already paid the high price for those sins. Our acknowledgment of our own "badness" can only be matched by our recognition of God's immense love for us. He paid the price, it's a balanced scale. If we spent as much time reflecting on the greatness of God's love and forgiveness each time we fail as we do beating ourselves up I think we have a much clearer view of who God is.
Finally I'll just give you some of my notes as food for thought:
- Embrace your own limitations, we're not God.
- Relationship and accountability are proportionate. Seek out relationships and pursue depth in them so that you can create accountability for each other.
- The opposite of anger is patience.
- To change you need new information or new ideas (the old way is not working), time, and you need others (we were designed for relationship).
- My emotions or thoughts are mine and yours are yours. Don't try to cross those God given boundaries to try to change people's thoughts or feelings.