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engaging with people + living in life-giving relationships

The touch of a living soul that poured out pure love.. It’s that touch that defines connection.” Larry Crabb
Los Angeles Beaches

I find it interesting how it doesn’t really matter what someone may say, how kind or wise, but if their eyes are not willing to truly see me and their heart not open to pour something from inside of them to me, then there is no real connection, nothing received or given, nothing really happens.

There’s a common phrase, “people may not remember what you said but they will remember how they felt when you said it.”  While this is true, it seems to still be a bit empty in the reality of the importance of impacting one another with our words and actions.

As I recently experienced a disappointment, I can definitely feel when people actually see me and when they do, lately I can’t look at them very long because I just start crying.  It’s a powerful thing to truly see one another, not a list of qualities or achievements of a person but to truly see one another.  We can’t simply stay in our experiences and read other people’s lives, experiences, feelings, future and past merely through the scope of our understanding, because while being unproductive and uncaring in our unwillingness to step into their life, their experience, it is also unbiblical.  The scriptures teach the danger of relying on the “mind of sense and reason without the Holy Spirit” and how it fails to lead to the abundant life the Christ died for us to experience.  I get the sense that in relationships with others we can rely more on the mind of sense and reason apart of the Holy Spirit and thus never see the people standing in front of us and right beside us, we see them as mere shadows of their character traits, gifts or dreams but we miss them, we miss their heart.

I think of Hagar in the Old Testament, who by the instruction of both Abraham and his wife Sarai had sex with Abraham and become pregnant with his child but then Sarai became angry and sent Hagar outside of the city.  It’s so irritating isn’t it, Hagar is already a servant, then she is put in this situation and agrees out of her service and loyalty and is then punished.  But when Hagar is outside of the city it is the first time that the scriptures tell us of the quality of God for which he is called, El Roi, The God Who Sees. Alone in a desert, taken advantage of by the people whom she served, yet she experienced an encouter with the living God and she felt “seen.”  I wonder if before we can truly see others we have to first experience something of the love of God and His intimacy that creates a foundation and security in our own spirit for us to know that we are seen, fully seen, and fully loved and accepted in those moments.

I like the phrase from Larry Crabb, modern Christian psychologist who explores what a safe spiritual community looks like and shares an encounter in a counseling session, “I wondered if she might be more afraid that I would speak to her head and ignore her heart, that I would remind her of what she already knew and expect her to somehow feel the impact of familiar truth simply because I repeated it.

Really being with people, present in the moment, willing to see them and be affected by them, gives us a unique place to allow the life of God to come and cause the encounters and relationships to become life-giving and fruitful.

I now realize that I had to be in touch with my own goodness to discover the unique goodness of Helen.  As long as my self-doubts and fears guided me, I couldn’t create the space for Helen to reveal to me her beauty… It is only when we have claimed our own place in God’s love that we can experience this all-embracing, non-comparing love and feel safe, not only with God, but also with all our brothers and sisters.” -Henri Nouwen
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