I was sitting in a popular little coffee shop on the High Street reading a book on Christian Formation. The title of the book had the name Jesus in it along with the word “growth”. A lady walking past me looked and stopped. She said very directly to me, “What does Jesus have to do with growth?”
I thought she was a bit rude, but I sensed there was much more to this encounter than her rudeness; and besides, she asked me the question, didn’t she?!? I would answer!
She continued to stand and stare, so I asked her if she would like to sit down. She did! She ordered a coffee and began to talk. About an hour later, she asked if we could meet again for coffee some other time.
I couldn’t have done this eight years ago. But, now that I see more of who God is and more of who I am, I can see you more clearly too. I can even love you now, the way Jesus tells us to love our neighbour. Before I was too focused on myself. All my energy went to trying to get others to tell me that I was ok, that I mattered, that I was of value and trying to get approval, acceptance, and love. In grasping how God loves me and wants me, I am free to love you.
I can meet you where you are like Jesus did with us. I can listen to your doubts, concerns, questions, even your anger. I can sit with you and listen to your story. Being aware of God’s presence with me, I can even listen to Holy Spirit in the midst of the conversation and see how He wants me to proceed: Do I need to speak or just listen? He knows the heart of the person, I don’t. He knows their struggles and what is happening in the deepest part of their being.
Jesus listened, He didn’t immediately start telling people what to do, or how to do it. He didn’t tell them they ought not to say those things or call them a bad person. He didn’t say, “I can’t be around you until you change.” Do you know what he usually did after listening? He would ask questions.
When I first started reading about Jesus in the Gospels, I remember wondering, why doesn’t He answer their questions and just give them a direct answer? Oh, I would get mad and frustrated with how Jesus handled people.
I grew up with people telling me what to do and when to do it – in my family, in the educational system, in society in general. I was never asked what I was feeling or what I thought, much less what I wanted to do.
Over time, I came to realize Jesus respected humanity. He respected people’s choices, their words, and who they were – He treated them with dignity. Even if they were doing or saying stupid things, not living the way they were created to, or just not listening He still honoured who they were.
Jesus Christ and the Samaritan Woman at the Well by Crystal Close. Image available here.
When I came to see how Jesus treated humanity (or wanted to treat me, but I couldn’t receive it) I found myself with a desire to treat myself and others the same way, with the same dignity, respect and honour. I wanted to show others the Jesus I had come to know myself.
When God has become our shepherd, our refuge, our fortress, then we can reach out to him in the midst of a broken world and feel at home while still on the way. When God dwells in us, we can enter into a wordless dialogue with him while still waiting on the day that he will lead us into the house where he has prepared a place for us (John 14:2).
– Henri Nouwen
Personal Reflection: Spend some time reflecting on how you see yourself, because how you see yourself (really see yourself) is how you will treat others. Do you expect yourself to be perfect and never make a mistake? Do you think you have to perform in some way before you can come to God or ask Him for help?
Meet God where you are. Be real, be vulnerable, and be honest. And meet others where they are just like Jesus did with us. Invite them to the table…
Song: ‘The Table’ by Chris Tomlin
“Jesus made his own broken body the way to health, to liberation and new life. Thus, like Jesus, he who proclaims liberation is called not only to care for his own wounds and the wounds of others, but also to make his wounds into a major source of his healing power”
– Henri Nouwen