Just to review the premise here…
OK, so we are on an adventure…
We’re posing the hypothetical possibility that we have been selected to be one of 10 Christians (or Christian couples) to journey to Mars somewhere between 2025 and 2040, to establish the First Christian Church there.
We’ve been endorsed and sent forth with the blessings of our denominations, and given extraordinary license and dispensation to establish a new church whose only constraints are scriptural, not traditional. That is not to say that tradition is to be despised or held in contempt. Merely that the traditions of one or some should not hold sway over the traditions or convictions of others.
What’s more, we have the incredible opportunity to establish “A” (not “THE”) First Century Church. All these colleagues have an active, living, breathing, personal speaking relationship with the living Christ, and the humility to balance personal revelation with scriptural validation and mutual accountability and examination. (That’s an amazing statement.) This is to say, these are all unabashedly functional mystics.
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The last post on these Chronicles posed the question, “Are We Alone?” and considered a frequent impression of people far from all that is familiar and homey.
An interesting point is/was that, while it makes perfect sense of Martian colonists or explorers to feel very isolated and alone so far from home, (even isolated from God Himself), that this is a common, frequent, quiet fear and concern for everyday normal people right here, right now. This sense of isolation, sometimes called “existential angst”, or a sense of the “void”, is something of a primal fear we learn to keep penned up in our darkest closets, lest it escape and take up residence under our beds at night.
We may come back to considering this chimera later, but for today I’d like to consider one of its most common companions… the sense of insignificance.
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Now, our colonists have all been specially picked, specially screened, specially trained… for this extraordinary mission. They are very “secure” in every psychological sense.
But many people who seek out counseling, or pastoral counseling, experience great pain in their lives and seek help for what APPEAR to be a vast variety of reasons: parent problems, kid problems, spouse problems, work problems, social problems, school problems, health problems, legal problems… People seek me out because some arena of relationships is causing someone pain.
What I have found, time and time again, is that people do NOT seek me out to hear my “wonderful advice”, or even so that *I* can “solve” their “problems”. That’s really not what they want or need. (It has taken me a painfully great number of years to learn that!) When there is “success” in a counseling relationship, it is nearly always because I was able to meet one single fundamental need they had when they came, and once it was met they were able to resolve their own issues.
Their need? Significance.
It starts in the very first appointment, when they sit down to “tell me all about it”. Years ago, I used to interrupt a lot, seek to array the facts and details in “their proper sequence”, and work to frame my response and recommendations “just so”. Eventually I learned how very out of order that was. I need/needed simply to LISTEN… let them be HEARD.
This is the first step. This is something incredibly lacking in our day to day lives. I, like so many others, live(d) in a “mindset of response preparation”… rather than a “mindset of embracing their expression and experience.” Someone who seeks me out doesn’t nearly so much want to know “what I THINK” about their situation, as they want to know “that I UNDERSTAND them, what THEY are thinking, what THEY are feeling”… and that I can enter into that experience with them.
So I’ve learned… it starts with (usually) our very first meeting. They have a “story to tell”, and I need just to sit still and quiet, and “receive” that story. Free of reaction, free of judgment, free of comment, free of response. Just receive them, their story, their experience. I don’t have to “approve” of all the elements or decisions made throughout the story. That’s not my role. They haven’t yet asked a question for me to answer.
But it took me the longest time to realize, the underlying theme in ALL these stories… was how this person seeks to affirm their own meaningfulness, their own influence, their own significance, in their lives and relationships… and the pain they experience when their efforts fall short.
Now here’s a strange thing… this is as true for truly “powerful”, “influential”, and “significant” people (whatever that really means)… as it is for the weak and helpless. The issue of “security” and “insecurity” is not met with worldly potency.
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Bottom Line on this Piece of Good News:
Truth: Human beings crave “attention” as “affirmation”.
Some more, some less. But the more powerless someone feels, the more attention they will demand, and the more their behaviors will absorb the time and attention of others.
So where’s the Good News here?
We, human beings, are MADE this way. We are FASHIONED this way. We have an endemic need for the nurturance and security of attention.
And we are “fashioned” this way because this is a socket in which we are permanently seated, in and for our relationship with God.
Scripture after scripture, from Genesis, through Psalms, through Proverbs, through the Gospels… affirm over and over again… God is HERE, God is ATTENTIVE, God is ALWAYS PRESENT, and He is NEVER too busy to be “paying attention” to you… to me… to each of His children.
This tremendous “Mystery of the Infinite”, this characteristic of Omnipresent God, assures that Jesus, Father, and Spirit, ALWAYS hold our hands and carry us in their arms.
We have no need to:
- Beg for His attention
- Ask His pardon for interrupting Him with our petty prayers
- Hope He doesn’t see our mistakes and shortcomings
- Cringe, cower, or plead that He will hear and respond to our petitions
- Wonder if He knows what we need or the timing of that
- Wonder if He really notices or cares…
None of that.
But I’ve noticed before, that a person CANNOT believe a kindness of God, that they have never ever first experienced from a human being. So, I’ve discovered, first and foremost, the greatest gift I can offer to someone who seeks me out… is simply to “pay attention to them”, “acknowledge them as significant and ‘worthy’ of ‘my time'”, and “HEAR them”.
You would not believe how often, simply THAT… simply LISTENING to them without comment, judgment, or interruption… for the entire first time we spend together… relieves 50% or more of the pain they felt when they arrived.
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So, suggestion… share the Good News of someone’s significance with them today. You don’t have to “Say” a thing. Just HEAR them. In this, you will affirm them in an incredible way. You don’t have to affirm the “rightness” of everything they think, do or feel. You are simply affirming the rightness of their BEING in the first place. God will grow them, as they allow that. But first, they can know that it is valuable (at least to YOU) that they exist and live at all!
This is a tremendous gift.
This, is Good News.