Her husband has adored, protected, and shepherded her. Her Daddy abandoned her because his self-destructive patterns made him too insecure to be near her. But it was her Savior who matured her. Made her who she is now, astride her thirties, having learned what she didn't know she didn't know, realizing now how much growing up she still has to do.
And what do the humble have to offer, by way of advice, when we've come to see how blurry our vision really is? What do the wise know, once we realize the measure of our measly wisdom in relative terms of God's? And what could I say to you that you would listen to, you would hear, and not only that, but heed?
My words are thin, my knowledge still developing, but Someone once told me not to despise development. Because people brushed Him off too. Said, "Isn't this the carpenter's son, the boy who we once knew?" Thought, "What could he possibly have to offer me?"
But that didn't slow Him down, didn't shut Him up, didn't stop the Words, heeded or otherwise. And He refused to be discouraged.
This "a little bird told me" post is a bit different this week, because it's not really about what I'm offering as much as what I received. I went to meet with my mentor, Cathy Hembree, and I had an important question for her. What she taught me I need now and always. It was so profound, I thought maybe it might be useful wisdom for you also, Dear One. As I age, I realize I need more wisdom than ever, and I'm open like never before. Oh, how faithful He is to fill this hunger! Cathy is the daughter of a preacher, the wife and widow of Ron Hembree (QuickStudy, CornerstoneTV), and a minister of the Gospel on so many fronts. I cannot begin to describe the value of being mentored by her for the better part of two years. Not only does she teach me and coach me, but she loves me. I couldn't ask for more.
Here was my question:
"What do I say to someone who needs the advice I have to offer, but I know he or she doesn't want to hear it? And what do I do with my heart when what I give isn't received? How do I keep from hardening then?"
This response isn't word-for-word, rather my mental record of what she said. Her words more precious than golden apples on a silver platter.
"Number One, say this: The Bible says: "Buy truth and do not sell it; buy wisdom, instruction, and understanding." [Proverbs 23:23] We have to begin by establishing the value of these things, according to God. Then ask that person - "Do you want to receive the wisdom and advice I'm about to offer you?"
Second, remind them the Bible also says, "A friend loves at all times," [Proverbs 17:17] and a friend who loves gives love, which is truth. Ask the person - "Do you trust the friendship we have established enough to know that I will speak the truth in love to you?"
And if the person says "yes" to both of those, proceed to give them what you know, regardless if you think it's what they want to hear.
After you do, say, "I'm praying for you, but not just that you'll get what you want, but moreover what the Father wants for you, and that you'll hear not only what I'm saying, but what God is saying through me. I would like to ask you to pray also - that God will make it obvious to you what comes next, and that you'll be open to it, no matter how much you like or don't like what He says. If you don't agree with what I've just advised, warned, or said - that's fine, but before you make any decisions, please wait on the Lord, and I really do mean wait, and we can talk again in a few weeks" (or whatever time seems appropriate).
"As for your heart, we must [and she humbly admitted she can struggle with this also] crucify all worry, guilt, and anger when people refuse to listen to us. We cannot go chasing after them on their wayward path and try to convince them again with the same repetitive arguments, and we must refuse to blame ourselves when their lives take a turn for the worse, wondering if we could have done more or tried harder or said more. Is Jesus our Model for ministry? [Here I answered, "Of course."] Tell me where we see Him chasing after someone who refused to believe? He didn't. Once He had initially gone to the broken and outcast, healed them or preached to them, He gave an invitation to follow Him and then He kept walking on the path to the Father and His will. Some of them followed Him, and others didn't. So why would we continue to go after people who refuse to repent and refuse to follow God's ways if Jesus didn't even do that?
Instead of worrying, feeling guilty, or relentlessly trying to convince a person, we've got to learn to open our hands and surrender. We must refuse anger or bitterness, and choose release. We must also choose our focus. Do you feel angry when you focus on their wayward choices? [Yes] Do you feel angry when you focus on Jesus? [No, not at all.] Then focus on Christ. Look not to what is "wasted." You are ministering as unto the Lord, so their response is not your focus. Of course you want them to walk in God's ways, but He is still at work, even when it seems like you're wasting your time. It is NOT a waste of time - you are serving Him. If we focus on the disappointment, we will be upset, but if we focus on walking toward Him, our joy will not be robbed. We will be fulfilled, encouraged, and strengthened to continue in ministry. With our thoughts and attention on Him, we will guard our hearts against being hardened, and we will continue to be effective, in His sight, which is only thing that matters anyway. Where are we directing our attention?"
"Since you became alive again, so to speak, when Christ arose from the dead, now set your sights on the rich treasures and joys of heaven where he sits beside God in the place of honor and power. Let heaven fill your thoughts; don’t spend your time worrying about things down here. You should have as little desire for this world as a dead person does. Your real life is in heaven with Christ and God. And when Christ who is our real life comes back again, you will shine with him and share in all his glories." - Colossians 3:1-4 (TLB)
This woman - she's learning. Growing up and opening her hands to Him. A few more wrinkles and a bit more around the middle, but more of what He made her to be, through trial and fire and sifting and grace. She's not the know-it-all any more. The Good Father has humbled her enough to know better than to know it all. And what could the humble give? A little more than you might think. If you don't mind opening your hands.
I'll continue to offer what I know, which is mostly from what I read. By now you know What I read. Part of my role [job?] is to teach, admonish, and advise. Much of it, actually. And so I will. Even when what I say isn't exactly what everyone wants to hear. Not because I know it all, but because I do know Him.
I love you, Dear Reader. I want to give you what I've been given, and that's love, grace, and the knowledge of His love. God's ways are good ways, and He is worthy of following. I'm thankful to be walking toward Him together.
Do you have a question too, Dear Heart? Please - don't be shy. I'll bet others are wondering too. All you have to do is reply in the comments section below, ask your question, and sign a creative signature. Anonymity is encouraged. You can also email me at email@example.com - just put "a little bird told me" in the subject line and I'll keep you anonymous. Ask me about God, the Bible, how people tick, anything really (okay, that last one is a little scary, but I'm trusting God for answers so I'll leave it). I hope to hear from you soon, Dear Reader! And when it comes up in your conversation, you can always say, "Well, a little bird told me ..." *wink*