I’ve been thinking a lot lately about what it means to be of service to someone else’s needs. To look beyond what I believe to be what I need at that certain moment, and to see what the other person is longing and yearning for. To lay what I want to happen in my own life down, and to ask the question- so what is going on with you? To earnestly ask, and see what we can do in someone else’s life, without any expectation that they will return the favour, because 99% of the time, we know they probably won’t. Because honestly, if we want to be real, no one really, really likes to ask the other person what is going on with them. Because once that happens, all bets are off. Everything we have planned for the entire day, well kiss that goodbye, because the person you are talking to may just pour their heart out to you, and you will have to listen, whether or not you even want to hear it. You have to genuinely care enough to say, ‘yes, I know what I want in my life today, but I am willing to shelve all that to one side for the sake of the person I am in conversation with’. Are we indeed willing enough to offer a shed of encouragement, from the deepest parts of our hearts (yes, indeed we may have to delve there, but I’m sure it’ll be very much worth it), as we service the needs of whomever we are in connection with, at that moment of the day?
We are a comfortable bunch, if I am to assess the human race with fervent honesty. I know I am. I think twice before I start a conversation with someone. I judge, though I don’t want to. I look at people around me, and see the mother with 3 kids, whilst also on the phone, and I think, ‘gee, what’s going on there, they aren’t a great role model for their kids’, when in fact I should be saying ‘maybe the mother is stressed out, hope they are able to be in control of their children as the day progresses’. Because if I am to be honest, I look at people and I make assumptions. We all do. But herein lies the point- what if the person that I’m making the most assumptions of is in fact the person that is put in my life to break them all one by one? What if it takes the person we assume to be the lowest of the low to come into our lives, in whatever way they do, and shatter our perceptions of them and others like them, and remind us that often, it is the lowest that change our perspective of society the most? What if it is the different, the downtrodden, the unusual, the interesting and the irritable that are the ones that are ones that influence our lives the most in a good way, more than we can even realise? Questions to ponder, I know. In fact, dare I say that it can be the most uncomfortable of situations and conversations that God can shine through and remind us, that yes, we are too comfortable for our own good, and yes, because of this fact, we ought to have the intentionality and the purposefulness to service someone else’s needs, even ahead of our own? But, but…but what about my own life, God? Why would you want to interrupt it by sending this person into it? Why do I have to be thrusted into a conversation with them? Why? I often ask myself the same thing, almost once a day at work when I’m in contact with people I may or may not see eye to eye on.
Regardless of our comfortableness, God at times shatters it so that we can see that it is indeed the bubble that we live in that is going to be our downfall when it comes to relationships with others. If we are only in communion with people that agree with us all the time, we’d never be challenged. We’d never be asked the questions, and we’d never develop a respect for the other person’s view. We’d never learn how to navigate difficult situations, or try to at least find common ground with a person. Because being comfortable, though that is what we are most inclined to do, isn’t what we were made for. Since we’re in God’s image, and God is community of God the Father, Son and Spirit, we are therefore the same, to be made to long for community, to not be alone, and to fellowship with other people, be as it difficult cultures and beliefs, as we journey and venture on this thing called life together.
Life was never meant to be lived alone, nor was it meant to be lived just serving the needs of ourselves. And while I know that at times, serving other people’s needs may not have any gain to ourselves personally, aside from meeting people who may be of a different background to us, what we may say or do to another person may have a tremendous effect on them, maybe even more than we realise at that moment. It takes courage and maturity to abandon the things we want to talk about, and try to walk into their world for once and discuss the things closest to their hearts- courage because to know fully what is closest to them is to really care. About what they enjoy, about them personally. And maybe it’ll be appreciated and maybe it won’t. Regardless, there is something that transpires in the positive way when we serve the needs of the other, without any expectation that they will do the same. Sure, if they do reciprocate we’d gladly accept, but even if they don’t, hopefully, we can be selfless enough to keep going in our quest to connect, our quest to journey out of our comfortability and venture into the unknown to maybe be encouraged and blessed, by the other person, either through their response to our actions of servicing their needs, or even just the presence of them in our lives at that moment of conversation.
I am in conversation with quite a lot of people on a daily basis. Some of them I thoroughly enjoy the conversation, others it can seem like a chore and a bore. Nevertheless, what I need to be reminded of is that often it is the people that we least likely think will impact our lives, that actually do. And it is in that moment that we have a choice- are we going to humble ourselves enough to consider them and their needs before ours, or are we going to cut the conversation short, say some cliché reason of why we don’t want to continue it and forever live in our comfort bubble full of people likeminded with ourselves? And yes, that decision is hard, because even though we were made for community, that doesn’t mean that choosing community is always going to be the easy choice. Because if it was easy, then there wouldn’t be any growth that comes out of meeting someone that has a different world view compared to us.
We’re always going to want to be comfortable. Its sadly in our nature. But what God is calling for us to do is to take the narrow road, the one that is the difficult, and venture into conversations that we know are good for the soul yet at that moment seem very problematic on a surface level. There is a song that I heard recently from up and coming artist Hollyn called “Love With Your Life” and it speaks about that- loving people with how we live our lives. Showing people who may not be believers that this is who we are- we love others as Jesus loved them. Yes, even the different and marginalised. Because if we don’t make them feel at home, and give them a licence to be themselves, then who will? To break out of our own comfortability can seem near-impossible, but there is a line in Hollyn’s track that hits the nail on the hammer, and really brings it home- if you wanna see a change, you gotta love with your life. How are we living our lives, and what are other people seeing- are we loving others like Jesus first loved us- without reservation, condemnation and judgement? Comfortableness is the enemy of conversation, and what comes with it- insight, awareness, a breakdown of preconceptions and an appreciation for the other person, and hopefully, more empathy as we try to see things from another person’s perspective.
Before I end this post, let me pose a few questions- what are the things in your life that are comfortable, but hindering you from having real relationships with people around yourself? What are the things you need to be rid of when you have a conversation with someone who is ‘different’ compared to yourself? Like “Love With Your Life” for me, is there any song for you that speaks about comfortability on a personal level (‘Kingdom of Comfort’ by Delirious? anyone?)? Let us know in the comments. Til next time, and here’s hoping that between now and then, we’d all immerse ourselves in a conversation with someone that is ‘different’, and be open to what the Lord has for us in that moment of seemingly uncomfortableness!