Some of the best thoughts come through struggle. God honors our struggle and despises our tepid, lukewarm droning. We are not preschoolers who walk straight lines attached to a rope. God honors the honest struggler. There are too many Christians trying to find life through soothing their soul, but true passion is brought forth in honest struggle. Our wrestling match with God is pregnant with passion and confidence. Because God will ENFOLD AN HONEST STRUGGLER IN LOVING ARMS. The good news is that hatred of God and others decreases as Christ takes the heart inch by inch, but it comes only through honest and passionate struggle with God. We may be a new creation, but we are not a perfect creation. The war over hatred and sin may be won ultimately, but the battle to replace hatred with love will be over only when we see Jesus in flesh. We can and will be angry with God, but have to be honest without reserve. We must understand the Holy Spirit will not allow a bottomless cup of anger to exist, and most often the heart will be engulfed in love when we are honest with God.
When was the last time someone said to you, "Let me tell you about those Christians--they are fantastic listeners! I have never seen a group of people more interested to know my world, curious, asking questions--listening to me!"
What a great question that we all know the answer to! We know Christians have a bad rap when it comes to the way they treat people. But the real bad news is that, if we are honest, we know that most of the things are true.
So what will it take for us to be better lovers of people; Christians and non-Christians alike? We have to learn how to enter into peoples' world. We have to learn how to really listen.
I have a degree, and I had so many classes in five years that, at some point, stressed listening skills. I don't know that I can count how many role-playing exercises I have done in classes and student leadership training. I don't know how many times I have done these things yet still listen so poorly.
As listeners, we are taught to enter their story and never be thinking of your own agenda or reply. To truly enter into their skin and situation we are taught these things tirelessly. Most of the time we enter their world long enough to attempt fixing them. Never mind loving them!
Think of the moments you wanted to be listened to most. A lot of those times were when I struggled through my faith. I would talk to friends I respected, and I was rarely listened to. How did I remember those times? I read about a girl in the book I just finished, and Scazzero writes about this girl: "But she wasn't asking for advice. She longed for me to join her and see how hard the world looks when I put on her shoes."
I can remember feeling just like this on several occasions. I can remember wanting someone to just enter my shoes for a little bit. I didn't want advice at that moment. In fact, I was a religious studies major too. I knew a lot of the answers they were giving me. I just remember wanting to talk and for someone to come alongside me. I wasn't looking for advice. But I often got advice. The reason is because we as Christians are not very good listeners. I especially think that the further you get into leadership, the worse we can get at being good listeners. The main reason is because the further I get in Christian leadership, the more I learn and thus the more advice I can give.
The problem with that is that our titles and furthering in ministry and leadership maturity is not an automatic maturing in other areas. In 1 Corinthians 3, Paul makes it pretty clear that we can acquire all kinds of spiritual gifts and maturity and still be babies.
I think we have to dive into ourselves and know more and more about who we are, but we also must be willing to enter into others' skin...not to fix but to love.
That is how we love well.
Do you hunger for Jesus Christ? Do you yearn to spend time alone with him in prayer? Is he the most important person in your life? Does he fill your soul? Is he constantly a focus of your conversation?
Has he been smothered by different distractions? Has he been made unnecessary because of your pride?
Do you regularly read his word to learn more of who he is? Do you even desire the Holy Spirit in your life? Do you think about what it means to put yourself aside and get rid of all the things that inhibit or threaten your friendship with him?
YOU write it...