My assignment for this week is simple. I am to reach out to someone whose background is very different from my own. It is a timely assignment. Here is why: When we refuse to throw a relational life ring buoy, someone is going to drown. Such life buoys are on my mind right now.
I received a phone call from a longtime friend earlier this week. She was quite disturbed the day she called. She told me about attending the same church for nearly 3 years, but for some reason she does not feel welcomed and accepted there. I probably should share a few facts about my dear friend.
Sarah (not her real name, but a good Bible name!) has a history of drug abuse. She has actually been clean for a long time now, but nevertheless the reality is that she was immersed in that culture for a good part of her young life. It is not a pretty story. The truth is…it is never a pretty story. She is educated, articulate, and witty. But she does not fit the typical mode for a young mother living in the suburbs. She does not look or act the part. The other ladies her age at church sense that difference. Their way of dealing with it is to just avoid Sarah. Little do they know that by their actions they are failing to throw a desperately needed relational life buoy? In a sense, this is a life and death situation. Recovering addicts face the danger of relapse every single day of their lives.
During our conversation Sarah asked me a question that still has me reeling. She said: How can I act like more like them, so they will accept me? I wanted to say: Do you really want to be a self-righteous snob like them? (That was harsh even for the King of Bluntness, so I refrained.) But nevertheless her question troubled me deeply. After pondering her dilemma for a few days, I came up with at least one thought.
The ladies that are seemingly shunning Sarah are probably not self-righteous snobs. But they are people that have failed to develop spiritually on an internal level. We can go to church, contribute our time, be generous financially, and still be clueless about those around us that hunger for meaningful relationships. Everyone is searching for a personal connection that is real and authentic.
I am convinced that such awareness will not come to the surface in our daily actions until we cultivate the internal spiritual disciplines of prayer, meditation, and solitude. The furnace of spiritual transformation is fired internally as the motives of our hearts are exposed in the presence of God.
Internal spiritual development gives us needed perspective. That perspective will prompt us to recognize people that are hungering for community, so we can throw them a life saving relational buoy. People’s lives are at stake. There is no reason to remain secluded among people that we feel most comfortable with. I will begin a new week with that thought impressed on my mind. I am eager to fulfill my assignment.