Life Giver or Human Vaccuum?

My work as a therapist often finds me assisting clients as they navigate through a particular life crisis, acting primarily as objective peer for a difficult situation. It isn’t that my clients don’t have friends or family with whom to pose their life questions. Oftentimes, it is that those people are not responding to them in a way that assists them in making life choices that are beneficial long-term.

In the days before seminary and this career, I used to make time to walk with my neighbor, Susan. We would solve world problems as we hiked our neighborhood trail. I recall a conversation where she recounted either a book she had read or a talk she had heard, where the subject was being a life-giver. There are two kinds of people in your life….those who give breath and those who suck it all out of you….isn’t that the truth? We usually get the clearest picture of which category our people fall into when we are facing difficult times.

Before you write off the human vacuums in your circle, it is important to realize that with some people, a little communication can remedy the crazy dynamic that has become the norm. It is our job, as people journeying together, to communicate the deal breaker behaviors before we escape with our life. Think of it as CPR for a relationship. CPR does not always work, but when it does, the miracle of it is appreciated indefinitely.

The Bible is filled with verses about friendship. There are verses that, if taken to heart, would prevent us from regretting the time and effort spent with those that almost sucked our very last breath away. Here is one that for today, gives a clear picture of who we should invest in and who we ourselves should be:

Ecclesiastes 4:9-10
Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their work:  If one falls down, his friend can help him up. But pity the man who falls and has no one to help him up!

Some tips for being a life-giver to a friend who has fallen and needs a little help up:

1. Listen to their story: Being heard and understood is one of our greatest needs as humans. It sometimes is all we need to keep going.
2. Fill a need: This could be a home cooked meal for someone who is overwhelmed or watching the kids for a couple struggling in their marriage. It could also be surprising someone with a financial gift or offering verbal affirmation as they pursue a passion. The list is endless.
3. Pray for them: Interceding for people when they are emotionally unable to do it for themselves is a priceless gift.
4. Hear their thankfulness even if they do not say it: Appreciation for another is sometimes most felt long after the crisis, when emotions are in balance. Don’t fault a friend who can’t respond immediately with reciprocity.

Most importantly….when you find a friend who offers the above to you…hang on with two hands…you are operating in relationship as God intended!

Why I do what I do….

It was the summer after junior year in college. A friend of my brother John offered me an opportunity for a paid internship downtown Los Angeles, at a bank headquarters. I was tasked to offer computer support to a division that was trying to implement a career path program that employees could access. Apparently this friend of John’s assumed that because John and I were genetically linked, I would be able to offer expertise in this area. I muddled through the summer, enjoying the time only because the intern program was amazing and I met interesting people and made more money than I thought possible, since my previous paid positions were things like babysitting, camp counselor and working as a hostess at a coffee shop. With lots of help, I got the job done and managed to fool my supervisor into thinking I knew something about my assignment but since I was miscast, I was relieved when it was over.

One of the most requested topics in the counseling room is that of finding fulfillment. Some seek fulfillment through relationships, through career, through family, through faith, even recreation. All of these are avenues for the richness life has to offer. As a counselor, I love the opportunity to explore with clients, the paths available to them for satisfaction in life. As a Christian counselor, it is so important to offer time for reflection for what God may want for clients as they pursue a deeper understanding of the meaning of life.

The Apostle Paul teaches on the gifts of the Spirit in 1 Corinthians 12 and gives warning to what happens when the church does not acknowledge the gifts of each of its members. So often, the places we work and serve in life are quick to fill roles, rather than let members use the skills God has equipped them with. Paul celebrates the diversity of people by reminding us that who we are individually and what we have to offer our community, is as different as the parts of the body with all its uniqueness in function. We need one another just as each part of the body is useless without the support of other parts.

Last night I dropped a box on one of my toes. I am not sure why I needed this experience to remind me what happens when even the smallest appendage is out of commission. In our communities that we live, work and serve, every person has an offering. When one is not operating in fullness, the whole community is hindered from operating at full capacity, just as I am limping around today with an injured toe. Do you know what it is that you bring to the communities of your life?

When Mike and I felt the call into ministerial occupations, it came out of our desire to see the church operate according to the model given to us in the New Testament that has each member of the body of Christ working within their gifts and talents for the good of the community. God, through the Holy Spirit, has gifted each of us with talents, skills and abilities that have value for personal and corporate fulfillment. However, most often, a few people are given the opportunity to use their gifts while many people live hesitant to offer what they have for fear that others will not see their worth, or that what they have to offer is irrelevant. Instead, people work and serve outside their call or not at all.

Calling looks different for everyone and sometimes takes time to uncover. If you have ever been miscast in life, you know that uncomfortable feeling that comes with having to perform in a role not fitted for you. When you are given the role that fits, there is a deep satisfaction that is inspiring and life-giving. It is a good idea to ask yourself if you have a place in your life where you are able to do what you do best, for the benefit of the larger community.

A couple of years ago, I was given the opportunity, through connections at Denver Seminary, to serve with an organization called Thrive. This Christian organization has a mission to encourage and empower Global Women to thrive and to be their advocate. As a counselor, I now serve as a convention volunteer using my abilities to encourage North American women serving overseas. This is an example of how I use my skill for the Christian community as one body part supporting another. It is a role that fits and as a result, I am blessed as much or more than the women I serve.

What are you doing to uncover the calling on your life?