Do you ever get to the end of the day and think “Man, nobody gets it. Nobody understands what it’s like to be: a retail salesperson, a mom of toddlers, a pastor with no salary, a kid with no friends, a missionary far from home and friendless, an entrepreneur who hasn’t had their breakthrough moment…” Do you ever wish you could just sit down and explain it to someone, or maybe to everyone. Some days, we wish we could just explain it all to everyone. Why? Because in the midst of our struggles, we want someone to understand.
Over the last couple of months, I’ve seen a number of memes, articles, and blog posts “explaining” to everyone what it’s like to be in a particular life situation, usually a job. I understand. I remember many moments when, as a leasing agent, I wanted to scream “I am the only person in the office today. I am answering a phone that rings every five minutes, processing twenty applications, handling all of the walk-in traffic, showings, and leasing appointments—and you want to know the exact dimensions of the bathroom counter in a particular apartment!”
We want people to understand where we are because we hope that if people understand where we are, they will relate to us better. We hope for more patience, more reasonability, more achievable expectations, more grace.
This week’s challenge centers around this basic need each of us has to be understood. Being understood isn’t a right. In our “selfie” culture we can get the idea that people have an obligation both to hear and understand us. They don’t. No more than we have an obligation to hear and understand them. It is, however, a need, and one which we rarely take into account when dealing with others.
We get in a rush and run over people as our lives intersect. We dismiss concerns, judge and ridicule actions, and never take the time to learn the motivators behind these things. We say, “Well you made that choice, so now you have to live with the consequences” without ever finding out the true story behind the situation. We rush into chaos without realizing that our “simple” question, request, or expectation is overwhelming. Just like the people asking for bathroom fixture specifications at the apartment complex.
When it comes to ministry, this is detrimental. Jesus looked out on the multitudes and was moved with compassion. Why? He saw their need. He saw that they were as sheep without a shepherd. He saw (and healed) their diseases. He saw (and addressed) their lack of understanding in spiritual matters. He perceived (and met) their need to be fed. And part of this was because He did the one thing that made it possible for man to comprehend that the God of the universe understood them — He became acquainted with our infirmities. Jesus went much further in understanding others than most of us ever would or could. He left behind everything He knew in Heaven to take on the miseries of life on earth. He walked among us, as one of us, in the trenches of our sickness, brokenness, and unfathomable failure.
Does compassion move you? Do you take the time to understand others? This week’s challenge is simple, but also hard. It will most likely take you out of your comfort zone, but it is ever so important. In fact, we feel that it is so important that we’re going to make it the focus of the next TWO weeks. So here it is. Over the next two weeks, take the time to talk with a single mom, a grandparent raising their grandchildren, or a foster family and ask them:
• What is it like to be (a foster parent, a single parent, an aunt or uncle caring for your siblings children)?
• What are your biggest struggles?
• How do you wish others would help?
• What has been the most beneficial to you, i.e. what skills have you acquired that help you the most, what assistance have others offered that is truly helpful in the long run?
Take the time to learn from them. Be sincere. Learn from them what it’s like to be them. Keep a record of what you learn and pray over what the Lord would have you to do with it. Please feel free to ask us to pray for you when it’s time to step out and have these conversations. It’s okay and normal to be nervous about asking someone about something that is foreign to you. It’s okay to be nervous about asking someone about their struggles. But if we never ask, we will never learn and we will never grow, nor will our relationships deepen to the extent that God intended. God will give grace and strength. We also want to walk alongside of you in this. That’s why we’re calling this summer’s focus Growing Together—because we all have growing to do. So while this may be hard—it’s the right thing to do.
Do you have someone in mind that you could talk to? Let us know how and when you hope to talk to them so we can be praying for you.