I’ll finish up with two encouragements:
If you are carrying around a load of shame like our friend from the story, please know that your shame does not speak the deepest truths about who you are. Regardless of where you are in your own story the reminder we find in this story is that God is not surprised or shocked by any of the details we shy away from. Notice the water jugs at the end of the story: she leaves them behind!
Next, if you are part of the church know that it is your job, until Christ returns, to go find this woman in your town. To see her. To be kind to her. To offer Christ’s love to her. To befriend her. To love her. The church is Christ in the flesh and the way that God has chosen to reinstate his kingdom here on earth. If we do not go, we cannot expect anyone to go in our place.
How can we do a better job of this? Here are a few thoughts, and I apologize in advanced for the lack of profundity. First, be aware of those around you. What if you decided that when you were in public you kept your phone put away and noticed those around you? Whatever is on the screen can wait. Be aware of those around you, especially at your worship service/gathering. Who is on the fringe: those who came in at the last second, sat in the back, left the split second it was over, or is there by themselves? Who is slow to leave but isn’t with anyone else? Be interested in getting to know people. Ask questions, not like an inquisition but as if you were really interested to hear their story. Better yet, actually find interest in the person and their story.
Second, check your own motivations when thinking of others, avoiding them or confronting them. Is it my own anxiety over my own uncertainties, my own sin, my own insecurities, or even my own need for security driving my thoughts and behavior? Is my motivation out of love or justice? Be careful here: don’t assume that truth telling (or more honestly, just stating your assumptions about someone) is inherently kind. It is not. Kindness can be as simple as humbly acting on behalf of another person without pretense or assumption. Let that humbly part be a speed bump to slow you down.
Third, invite people over for a meal. Cook for them, serve them. If the best you can offer is take out, that’s ok. Then do it again. And again. Relationships are never single shot, they take time to develop.
Fourth, anticipate the blessing. One thing I’ve learned is that God has something to offer me as well. Sometimes it is teaching me something that I hadn’t figured out yet. Sometimes I find a new friend. Often he uses these moments to help me see my own faults and weakness.
Brandon completed his M.A in Counseling from the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in 2009. Since then he has worked in community mental health agencies and private counseling centers. Aside from serving as the Director for ICP he also has a private counseling practice. Brandon lives in Louisville with his wonderful wife and children.