Last week we celebrated Episode #30 of our WOLKs together, our Words of Loving Kindness. It was sandwiched between weeks that have been very exciting, but also very challenging.
Last month I had the joy of traveling to Columbus, Ohio twice, the first visit for a pre-wedding party for my beautiful niece and her wonderful guy, the second visit for the actual wedding. It was a time of great joy with “Ava Maria” ringing out from the choir loft, rock and roll classics from the dance floor, long chats with family, giggles with the young people. Many, many words of loving kindness.
I came home exhausted! But before I had the chance to rest up, I found myself dealing with unexpected challenges. I was going to be deliberately vague and not “name names,” but I’m not sure that’s helpful, so I’m going to try to be open and honest without throwing anyone under the bus.
I’m part of our church leadership and this Sunday we’re going to have the first of three longer conversations. It won’t be easy. The topic has already evoked passionate reactions, all unique in their perspective. Not so many words of loving kindness.
As soon as the dates for our meetings were set, the buzz started. Some of our church members got very anxious; some got very upset; some still aren’t sure what all the fuss is about.
Only two people have come forward and actually talked to me. I’ve been frustrated. I’ve been disappointed. At times I’ve gotten angry, especially as I learned more and more about side conversations.
I didn’t understand the depth of emotion, especially since we haven’t even had our first meeting yet. I didn’t understand why people didn’t talk to me personally. I didn’t understand why they didn’t trust me to have an open conversation with the entire congregation.
Going into the meetings, I told my pastor and our leadership team, “My goal is to have a free-flowing, open, honest, respectful discussion, so that when the final decision is made to proceed or not, everyone will have felt heard, no matter what we ultimately decide.”
Shortly thereafter, I had one of my infamous, “Dear God” moments: Dear God, am I really that naïve?
Words of loving kindness are easy when life’s easy. Words of loving kindness are not so easy when life gets hard.
Not every conversation is a time of great joy, giggles on the dance floor. Some discussions are really, really hard. Some of those around us will support and encourage us in the most wonderful ways; some will disappoint. And the closer they are to us, the more it can hurt.
Looking back over the past many weeks, I have to wonder if my frustration, disappointment, and anger are more a reflection on me, than those around me, unfair expectations that I foist on those around me. And when the going gets tough, I can get petty. I can make things very personal. My feelings get hurt. I miss the bigger picture, the more important issues at hand.
This week my morning Bible study included a chapter about the church, reminding us that the church is not them, it’s us. Reminding us that we’re asked to be God’s light, especially those of us serving as church leaders. We’re asked to support and encourage each other. We’re reminded that we’re really one in Christ. In church-speak, we say we’re the body of Christ.
While not said specifically, I’m guessing the authors of my study would apply their reminders to both the easy conversations and also the harder one. This church leader also got two additional lessons in church leadership this week—from my wonderful husband, Kurt, and from my dear friend Michol. Yes, words of loving kindness.
Words of Loving Kindness Lesson #1: Look around, not in.
More than once, I’ve started recent conversations, “I just need to vent.” Kurt’s heard it frequently. Michol heard it just the other night.
Ladies, nowhere in the Bible are we given license to vent. Google Bible verses about grumbling and complaining, judgments and wrath—you know, that bigger anger.
That’s not to say that there won’t be times of disappointment, frustration, and anger. It happens.
Fortunately for me, both Kurt and Michol stopped me with their words of loving kindness, refocusing my attention on God’s will, His way, His timing. In their own way, they each redirected my attention from my own feelings to the feelings of our church body, to all of us.
When I said aloud to Michol, “I’m not sure how you did it…”, she interrupted and replied, “I don’t think I did. I think the Holy Spirit did.” I think the Holy Spirit did it.
In one of our conversations, Michol also reminded me that some of the kindest words of loving kindness are the ones not spoken. While preparing for this morning, I came across a verse from chapter 5 in Ecclesiastes. Ecclesiastes is an Old Testament book of wisdom written by King Solomon. I actually came across the verse several times which might mean God thought it particularly relevant, just sayin’…
“Be not rash with your mouth,
nor let your heart be hasty to utter a word before God,
for God is in heaven and you are on earth.
Therefore, let your words be few.”
Words of Loving Kindness Lesson #2: Let your words be few.
As you know so well, life happens. Together as friends and families, co-workers and people of faith, we will have many discussions, some easier, some harder. Some moments will disappoint; some will frustrate. At times we will need to speak up. At other times we will need to pipe down.
On Sunday I’m praying that our time together as a church honors God and His people. I’m praying that we might have a robust discussion that brings out our best, most creative selves. I’m praying that we might give glory to God with our words of loving kindness for each other.
To close I share this wonderful blessing from the apostle Paul’s second letter to the Corinthians, chapter 9, verse 8:
“And God is able to bless you abundantly,
so that in all things at all times, having all that you need,
you will abound in every good work.”
I know that just listening more and talking less won’t take care of all our hard conversations, but for me it’s a start.
We really are blessed in all things—in our thoughts, words, and deeds. We really are blessed at all times—when times are great and when times are challenging. We have all that we need—to do the easy and the hard. We will abound in every good work—because God insists on working in, through, and all around us. Yes, words of loving kindness!
Deanna Nowadnick is the author of two books: Fruit of My Spirit and Signs in Life.