I gratefully participate in an intentional community. We who meet together do so to remind ourselves that we are actually the same size, with the same limits and powerlessness as everyone else. To remind ourselves that God alone is sovereign and able to change hearts. And to remember that fearful living is not sane living. Most of us are trying to repent of telling others the truth from broken places inside of us; places of self-deceit and fear. We’re trying to “mind our own business” but still love people who frustrate, hurt and try to love us in return.
One evening, a woman shared that when she felt discouraged or afraid of her loved one’s choices, she would compose letters to them – series of letters to them. “I really believed,” she said, “that if I could just better articulate how I felt, what I wanted for them, or what health looked like, they would soften and change. So if they didn’t respond to my first letter, I would write a better one.” The minute she shared this, I knew I needed to hear more from her. I have built a profession, in a dark sense, around people looking to me for me to articulate and give words. I love the power of communication. I trust it to a fault.
Jesus said “Why do you examine the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye, and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? How can you say to your brother ‘let me take the speck out of your eye’ when all the time you have a plank in your own eye? You hypocrite; first remove the plank from your own eye and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.” (Matthew 7:3-5) My plank always keeps me from seeing clearly. This means I will never be able to accurately see the motives in someone else. This means that I am never bigger, better than, or unique from my brother; I merely get opportunities to have a small voice with them.
If only we could know that this smallness is a blessed gift. If only we could receive our powerlessness as protection. Instead, we fight this. I fight this. I lean back on what is apparent and tangible. Sometimes people listen when I talk. Sometimes I can articulate sadness and fear to help people get a foothold. Yet many times my words are a clanging gong. One of my teammates loves to remind me that my words don’t really matter all that much. I hate this, and I need to hear it. Why? Because I trade lightheartedness for playing the Holy Spirit. I want to cry as David in Psalm 131:1 “O Lord, my heart is not lifted up; my eyes are not raised too high; I do not occupy myself with things too great or marvelous for me.” I will be repenting of trying to be too big for the rest of my life.
What is the alternative for me and those like me who lean on our words to change others? Is it silent avoidance or post-modern despair that there is no real truth and everyone must navigate for themselves? I believe the alternative is to be right-sized, under the Truth. To take to heart Jesus’ loving rebuke (I like to think of Him as lighthearted rebuking the crowd), and cooperate with Him in cleaning up my side of the street before I hold up a mirror to you.
How can I know that I’m ever appropriately confronting you? I won’t know that perfectly, and I will have to risk that my confrontation is a piece of what Jesus has called me to in your story. And it may be messy and make things worse, whether I am trying to control you or speaking freely.
Yet, it is deeply worth it to examine my motives. Am I speaking to love you or to change you? If I carry urgency with my message, if I have rehearsed my conversation with you over and over in order to brace myself, if I carve words intensely or desperately, it may be that I think I need you to repent or change. If I am speaking the truth many times to you instead of once, it may be that I feel you must change. You must change for me to be okay. This is not standing on my own ground, inside the space where God alone meets me. It is me on your ground, trying to be God when I sense He isn’t moving. If I am crushed by your defensiveness, or if I power up to you, I am too invested in your change.
Speaking in order to love brings a lightheartedness that has for too long been foreign to me. It’s speaking with soft strength, wanting more for the other and wanting more for myself. It’s a willingness to have them not hear me. It’s a hopeful belief that the God who led me to them is already involved with them. The Spirit alone sees all, and He will see to it. The Spirit alone handles all truth perfectly, with unapologetic strength and perfectly honoring compassion. Using words in my own strength brings exhaustion, resentment and self-righteousness. Looking at my own plank and being willing to speak from my limited voice when God leads brings a harvest of peace and strength.
May we steward our small voices and perspectives with lighthearted hope.
Meredith joined The Barnabas Center staff in January 2009, upon completing her Masters in Counseling from Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary and her Bachelors in Religion and Psychology from Furman University. She counsels, leads women’s groups and teaches a seminar called “Hope in the Darkness” for those walking with individuals suffering from depression or bipolar disorder. Meredith, her husband Jon, and daughter Charlotte live in Fort Mill, SC.
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