REACH OUT IN PRIVATE
We are most free when away from the public eye. When someone really touches another’s heart, they do it in private when their defenses are down. The problem is, we rarely reach out to each other privately. We’re accustomed to meeting up across the sanctuary, or in a lobby, or in a grocery store. We ask the other person how they are doing and assure them we have been thinking about them and praying for them. It is only mildly comforting. Those same words would have been so much more effective if we’d put them in a card and mailed it, or delivered a batch of muffins to their door and spoken the same words.
In 1982, my mother was diagnosed with inoperable cancer. A year later, Ron’s mother dropped dead unexpectedly and mine lost her battle with cancer nine months later. We said goodbye to both mothers within a year of each other. Our loss was staggering. We were young and both unequipped to know how to walk that journey which included grieving.
One morning, I was home vacuuming and the phone rang. It was an older woman from our congregation whom I had seen on Sunday. She usually made a habit of speaking to me. On this weekday though, she made an unforgettable gesture and offered enduring words. This is what she said. “I was going about my day, Christine, and it hit me that you and Ron are losing both your mothers at the same time. I stopped what I was doing to take that in. That’s crushing and so much to deal with for a young married couple. I don’t have any magic words but I wanted you to know that I noticed, I am hurting with you, and I care.” I thanked her, I was awkward, but oh did it mean a lot to me. Here’s the thing ~ if she had said those same things in the church lobby the Sunday before, it wouldn’t have made the impact it did on a Tuesday because she had stopped her routine, thought about us, and made the effort to reveal that.
Some things can only be done effectively in private. I think about Joseph who was overcome by the sight of his brothers after so many years apart. He was Vice-chancellor of Egypt but they didn’t yet know it was him. Joseph was trying to contain his emotions at the sight of them; understandable since they were the very ones who had treated him cruelly and sold him into slavery. So he excused himself from the feast and here’s the verse that references it. Genesis 43:30 Then Joseph hurried out, for his compassion grew warm for his brother, and he sought a place to weep. So he entered his chamber and wept there.
Why do I reach out to others publicly? It’s safe, convenient, and emotionally protective but it shouldn’t be about me. The most honest pain someone else feels is what they feel in private. When they are approached there, I will probably access their authentic selves and the part of them that is potentially raw. I need to know that I don’t have to eloquent, just real.
So make a note on Sunday of who it is that needs encouragement and send yourself a text reminder. Then, ask God how to express love and care sometime that week. The sky’s the limit for ways to reach the heart where Jesus can leave His imprint.
How many people did you talk to privately? You waited until they were alone – even the Samaritan woman at the well. You risked both your reputations. Guide my creativity as I think of being more vulnerable and personal. Amen