I received a wonderful letter today from an old counselor. He is now a husband and father of several young children, and active in ministry that seems to be a perfect fit for him. We always love seeing where life takes our counselors. They are often with us for many years and become part of our family. And like any family, there are times when correction is needed.
This young man was remembering a time one summer when he, as trip leader, did not give enough clear information to the campers in his care, and a situation was created that could have caused trouble. Fortunately nothing negative happened, but this lapse in judgment could not be overlooked. He went on to talk about “the meeting” he had with my husband. When he realized what could have happened he felt terrible! He was very embarrassed and very concerned about disappointing us. He was also very unsure as to how David would handle this mistake.
He said, “I want to thank you so much for the way you handled that. While you clearly expressed your legitimate alarm and disappointment, you created an opportunity for me to grow. You continued to support and value me throughout that summer, for which I am so thankful. It helped to open me eyes to what I had been blinded to, and that experience has been incredibly valuable to me in ministry and all areas of my life.”
Herein, my friends, lies our challenge and our task as Christians…to speak the truth IN LOVE, in ways that create a space for growth to happen, not shame. When truth is spoken in love, conviction happens, and not condemnation. Our world, our cities, even our churches and homes are at times filled with words that shame. The difference in guilt (which is sometimes very healthy!) and shame is this. Guilt says I DID something wrong. Shame says I AM something wrong. No one needs help feeling bad about themselves. We beat ourselves up with tremendous skill! But we all need help feeling good about who we are. And each of us has the opportunity to be a blessing with our words. Perhaps the words we must speak are not easy, but let them challenge with grace not condemnation.
Each of us carries the Spirit of Jesus within us. We represent Him. What a privilege! Let’s pray to be His presence with not only our actions but the words we speak. Let’s be intentional about growing in our ability to communicate with love and humility, knowing that we too need grace and tons of mercy! And let’s look for ways to “pay it forward,” to help create spaces for healing and real growth. Nothing is wasted in His hands. No kind word goes unnoticed by the One who IS mercy. And He smiles every time we choose love in His name. Let’s keep each other in prayer!