Monday, September 6, 2010
Doing and Being
One thing we can evidently say about Nehemiah – he was a man totally attuned to God’s agenda. We see this as his story unfolds in the book of Nehemiah when he hears of how the walls of Jerusalem are in ruins. He must have been a good and sensitive listener because Nehemiah responds with “when I heard these things, I sat down and wept. For some days I mourned and fasted and prayed before the God of heaven” (Neh 1:4). But his is not a mourning of passive despair. Instead, he is filled with what Billy Hybels calls ‘holy discontent’. Such ‘holy discontent’ is not contented with merely crying and wringing the hands helplessly but a spur to do something about the cause of his mourning. Nehemiah gets a vision of how he can use his life purposefully for God’s Kingdom – by restoring the ruins of Jerusalem’s walls. And we know how Nehemiah’s vision ends – in a great work which sees Jerusalem’s ruined walls and gates restored in 52 days.
As we go about the activities of our spiritual life, we too will hear stories of people with shattered and ruined lives. In fact, every church is filled with them – people with errant and wayward children, non-believing and absentee spouses, life-threatening or terminal medical conditions, self-destructive habits and behaviour, etc. Do we listen sensitively and pray to God for them? Do our prayers move us to examine ourselves rigorously, to see if there is any part we can play to restore their lives?
Even if we have no tangible resources to offer for the alleviation of another’s distress, we can still offer time and ourselves. When we cannot “do” for others, at least let us “be” there for them. Just being there and listening to them is already doing something for them. Over time, this will make a difference and translate into authentic and trusting relationships. Many of us have heard the maxim, “people don’t care about how much you know until they know how much you care.” I have found to this to be a tried and true maxim in that almost all afflicted people are able to come up with solutions to their problems or the strength to live with it. What they need most is just someone with whom they can articulate their grief and pain and have the assurance that they will not be judged at all. Over time, our steadfastness in caring will build a trust within which growth and change can happen.
Time - that is something we find hardest to give. We are often tempted to “quick-fix” the other’s problem and then get frustrated because the other person will not move at our set pace. We end up hurt and forget the hurting person is not us but the one we are helping. In these situations, it is important just to accept the person unconditionally. After all, is that not how Christ acts with us too? I am sure we all have occasions where we stubbornly cling on to our wayward ways despite knowing the fallacy of it all. Does Christ’s love decrease on those occasions? I am sure it does not, so let us pray for the grace to be likewise with the people whom he points in our direction for us to help. Let us hold on to the promise of Gal 6:9, “Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.”