John 4: 29
Introduction: Summary of last week
Review of the story of Adam and Eve
They ceased to understand reality
Oppressed by their own fear, they were out of balance
They lost sight of their purpose
The Story of Alice and the power of understanding
Closing remarks, weekly passage and prayer
Week Two, Lord Do You Understand Me?
Last week we saw that God’s Love initiates. God’s Love invites. God’s Love always has time for us. Jesus told us that we are to love others like God loves us. That means we show initiative in our personal ministries, we invite others to take the next right step forward in their lives and we find time to hear, value and build others up. This week we begin to look at different aspects of God love.
Love is a huge topic. When Paul was speaking about love and relationships in 1 Cor 13 he said that love was patient and kind and on and on. He lists 15 attributes of love all together. We are looking at love from a different perspective so our list is different. It, too, is longer than one word because Love is complex.
Love is the answer to the issue of sin. If you look back at the story of Adam and Eve, you see that the fundamental trust the two of them was broken. Now they were at odds with each other. They had reason to protect themselves and be suspicious of the others. Have you ever stopped to think about what the conversation must have been like the next day?
“You turkey. You tried to dump this whole thing on me.”
“You started it.”
“No I did not, and even if I did why did you say that!”
And on and on. The conversation continues, doesn’t it? It even invades our kitchens and our bedrooms.
Fundamental to the story is that Adam and Eve ceased to believe God’s description of the real world and began to believe in their notions. Attempting to live a lie, they no longer understood the purpose of their lives or how relationships work. The way back to God, the way out of sin, begins with understanding reality. We exist as people called by a loving God to be a blessing to others. Because we are afraid we are seriously out of balance. God would restore us to our rightful selves so we can live the lift that fits us. That is our path out of sin and back into God’s original intention for us.
I was talking to a woman who had been divorced for three years. Her kids were grown, parents were dead and she was an only child. She had an OK job, but pretty routine. In short, she is alive but at loose ends. You may know someone like this.
She said that though she believed God loved her but she felt very alone. The hardest burden she carried was that no one wanted her around. Woman did not want her around their husbands. After work, the single women did not want her around because they went places to be picked up by men. That was not her style. Her kids were busy with their own lives. She was at loose ends, frustrated and lonely.
As Christian people we know that God never leaves us destitute. We may not see the people He put there for us, but they are there. We always have the physical, spiritual or emotional support we need. God provides for the young, the old, the rich or the poor. Before God we are all the same.
I suggested she start praying, “Lord, who have you sent to be a part of my life at this time.” That is a prayer asking for God’s help to see the real world, to understand where our next right step is in life.
Whenever she prayed she heard the same message, “Feed my sheep.” She asked me what that was all about. I said I could not answer, but God could. Ask him. So she did.
I got an e-mail three or four days later saying that she asked God, “Why feed my sheep. That’s not a proper answer to my prayer!” That was Alice. No shrinking violet, she always asserted herself, even with God. I laughed as I read her e-mail. How Brilliant God is. Some people need to assert themselves. They get used because they are so eager to help others they don’t see the pitfalls. No Alice. This was perfect. She was out of balance on the aggressive side. God understood where she needed to start far better than she ever would.
Hearing this counsel in her prayers, Alice suddenly understood that God had put all sorts of people in her life, co-workers, neighbors, cousins and old friends. That was the reality of her life. There were plenty of people and somewhere in that collection of friends, family and acquaintances were the people God put there for her.
The problem was that she wanted them to feed her. She was afraid to ask for support. Being somewhat aggressive herself, he knew somewhere inside the she had irritated many people, including her ex and her children. She was afraid that people would shun her or hurt her if they knew just how lonely she felt. And even if she stumbled into someone foolish enough to befriend her, what would she do when that relationship also came to an end? Alice became aware that fear ruled her life.
God knows the sorrows and hurts of our hearts. So God said to her, “Turn it around. Stop looking for that who will take care of you. Start blessing others.” So she asked a co-worker to join her for lunch. Her coworker was happily married; the sort of person Alice thought might not have time for her. But she also knew that she did not need to fill her life with people who could not maintain their relationships. She already knew how to exhaust others. She did not need practice with that.
At lunch, she asked this happily married woman about her family, her hobbies and her hopes. She let her know that she understood her. You know already what happened, don’t you. After a while, Alice’s co-worker did the same. Alice who wanted a friend became a friend and voila, a little light came on in her world.
In talking about this conversation Alice confided in me that her co-worker had stimulated her to remember some very good moments in her life. She had not thought about what was right with her for some time. As a result, she shared much that was great about her life as well as some moments that were not so great. “I had be most balanced chat I have had in years and it was great fun.” Wow!
Alice did this with four or five different people two of whom become good friends. As she looked for opportunities to listen to others and encourage them her life became richer. God designed our lives to be that way and when we allow ourselves to understand the totality of our experience, the reality of our lives becomes brighter.
That is what I mean by understanding reality. We are designed by a loving God to show love to others. We are broken people, out of balance and ruled by a crazy quilt of hope and fear. Grasp that, grasp that God walks with us in the middle of our conflicting emotions and you grasp wisdom, a practical understanding of what life is and how to live it.
I picked this person’s story to share because God not only transformed her life as she came to understand reality, but also because her best way of loving others was through listening. She had a great capacity to understand others in a way that they knew they had been heard and valued.
You don’t have to be lonely, by the way, to minister to others this way. Everyone here knows someone who is lonely, someone who needs an ear and a smile. God does that for us every time we pray. God listens and understands and we feel better about our lives. With new hope we look for the next right step to take. So why not do the same for another?
This next week I encourage you to learn the following passage of Scripture,
“29 Are not two sparrows sold for a penny?
Yet not one of them will fall to the ground
outside your Father’s care.30 And even the very
hairs of your head are all numbered.
31 So don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.”
In your prayers ask God,
“Lord, who do I know who could use a listening ear and a smile?”