Friday, July 26, 2013

Authenticity - Engaging Authentic People - Guest Blogger

Allow me to introduce Monica Hess as a guest blogger.  As Monica read my posts on Authenticity, she began to ponder the other side of the coin; how do we relate to people who choose to be authentic.  As Monica and I talked, I asked her to write an article on this subject and found her insights to be helpful, I hope you find the same help and encouragement.  In a culture where authenticity is waning, both being authentic and receiving those who are authentic can be difficult. I hope the following article will be of some benefit to you as we engage one another in developing deeper connections through being authentic as we pursue Christ.

Galatians 6:2 implores us to “carry” or “bear” one another’s burdens to fulfill the Law of Christ—to love another as He loved us.

Being around people who are in a bad way is difficult, messy and risky.

I walked up to someone in a group recently fully intending to start an easy conversation.  Within three seconds I knew this was not going to be an easy conversation.  She was in a bad way.  Her heart just poured out and I stood there a little freaked out.  I had to make a conscientious decision to either engage or flee.  The Lord knew I wanted to flee.  I really didn’t know this person too well and had already had a difficult day of my own.  But God tickled a certain scripture in my heart, something about being humble, patient and kind and bearing with one another in love. (Ephesians 4:2)

I planted myself at her side and just listened.  As I listened, I knew God wanted me there, to help bear her burden.  And I knew this because what she was speaking was very familiar to me and I knew God could use me.  I’m so glad I chose to listen and receive her authenticity.  God allowed me to come alongside her and be His instrument.  What an honor.  And I’ve received much in return. 

If you are one of those who find it incredibly difficult to be on the receiving end of someone’s anguish I want to encourage you.  I know it’s risky and uncomfortable.  But God is in control.  He will guide you should you choose the mission.  Sometimes, all that is required is a listening ear.  You may have absolutely nothing in common and what’s being expressed is like a foreign language.  But a gentle touch, an encouragement to continue speaking or just standing alongside this vulnerable child of God may be all that is required.

I think maybe something key to all of this is where scripture admonishes us that now that we have been made new in Christ, we are to regard no one from a worldly point of view—that we are now His ambassadors and He is making his appeal THROUGH us.  (2nd Corinthians 5:16-21)  If God is using us, and that person who is so strung out, stressed, saddened, or just plain done with it all calls out for help, sometimes in ways that are seriously messed up, then we can trust and know that God will give us the exact response.  We cannot look at that person through our own eyes, but through the filter of Christ who lives in us. Walking away from someone in that condition, in my opinion, constitutes a neglect of what we’re commanded to do.  And scripture makes it very clear that we were not given a spirit of timidity, but a spirit of power and love in order to walk through the fire with a complete stranger, if necessary. (2nd Timothy 2:7)

Several years ago an acquaintance of mine from work who was the young mother of five children under the age of seven lost one of those children in a horrible, tragic accident.   Her grief was intense and admittedly somewhat overwhelming for those of us who worked with her.   For financial reasons, she could not take the necessary time off from work to heal and recover (if that’s even possible).  Her sadness was palpable and deep and unfathomable.  Being around her was extremely difficult.  I worried about my own kids whenever I looked at her.  My vision was completely inward and selfish.  I didn’t want to catch it—what she had. 

But God had other plans.  I was a new believer and I knew in my heart that God wanted me to come alongside her in a way that I did not have the strength or will to do.  So, calling on His strength I engaged in her pain and became God’s tool to be used freely.  Let me tell you, the next year with her was one of the most difficult, dramatic, heartbreaking years of my life.  She taught me so much.  Her faith in God grew my faith.  I thought I was there to help her.  Well, when all was said and done, I had grown exponentially in my faith walk.  Today, she and I are closer than sisters and she continues to be an important part of my life.  I am so grateful that the Lord used me to answer the call to receive her pain, anguish, tears and devastation…her authentic pain.  Had I not, I would have forfeited such treasure.

And yes, we will get burned, charred beyond recognition at times.  It isn’t always going to be rewarding.  We’ve all had the experience of allowing ourselves to love the unlovable only to be scorned, ridiculed and deeply hurt.  But remember, we’re prompted to consider it pure joy when we face trials because trials test our faith and develop our perseverance so that we may be mature and complete, lacking nothing—but gaining everything! (James 1:2-4) 

Next time you’re given the honor and opportunity to engage in another’s pain, I encourage you to take a leap of faith and see and taste that the Lord is good—all the time, in all circumstances.  Experience the power of His desire to refine and sculpt you.