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Thursday, August 5, 2010

What I’m Reading Today: Matthew 13

One of my frustrating personality quirks is that I tend to move through life at a rapid pace and expect to see immediate results in those areas in which I invest energy. If you think I’m bad now, you should have seen me early in my ministry. Yikes!!

When I would counsel a person, for instance, there was a part of me that wanted to see the other person immediately integrate the things we had talked about. If they didn’t, I’d consider the session unproductive. And when I worked with a committee or group of leaders, I imagined the group would start using the concepts we had explored right away. I interpreted any delay in the process to mean that I had failed miserably in my capacity as spiritual leader.

Then something interested happened in my ministry that changed the way I perceived things.

I had been working with a person in the community I served for a few years and had invested a good deal of time and energy trying to help the person get to a better place in life. All of a sudden a misunderstanding occurred between the individual and some of the leadership in the church. The person disappeared from our community overnight.

I took the person’s disappearance very personally. I figured that I had somehow failed the individual. “I had failed to be as sensitive to the person’s needs as I could have been,” I told myself. Other times, I would tell myself I had failed to help the person develop a broad-based support network in the community that could have helped the person stay connected to the community during the person’s time of frustration. No matter how I spun the tale, I remained convinced that the person’s decision to leave our community was all about me. (That would be my gi-normous ego speaking there.)

Over a year passed, and guess what happened? The person re-appeared and re-established a connection with our community.

In the days that followed the person's re-appearance, I talked with the person about what had happened that caused the person’s sudden departure. It turned out the reason for the departure had little to do with our community. It was primarily about issues that lie within the individual. During the year that passed, the person had done some difficult work and felt comfortable returning to the community.

There were two learnings that I drew from that experience. First, I realized I HAD to get over my “It’s All About Me”-complex and remember that at any given moment in a person’s life – there are lots of factors that affect their decisions. That was a good start.

Second, I had to remember that sometimes people need a little time and space in order to work things through. Sometimes that time and space happens when folks stay together; sometimes that time and space happens when folks separate. All that matters is that folks find a way to work things through.

Jesus was a master at understanding the second lesson in particular. He was able to give people space in order to work things through at their own pace. Take today’s series of parables/teachings. When his disciples asked Jesus why he used such methods to teach, Jesus replied by saying: “Whenever someone has a ready heart for this, the insights and understandings flow freely. But if there is no readiness, any trace of receptivity soon disappears. That’s why I tell stories,” Jesus concluded. “ - to nudge the people toward receptive insight.”

Sometimes it feels as if I’m the only one who’s impatient in the world. Chances are, however, I’m not. Maybe you have been dealing with a situation where patience (or the lack thereof) has been an issue for you as well.

If that’s the case, I would encourage you to remember Jesus’ words in today’s passage and find a way to give the other person/other situation you are frustrated with a little time and. The time and space you give the other may be exactly what they need in order to receive that “receptive insight”.

Til next time …

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