This morning I was reading an essay by Henri J.M. Nouwen called God’s Search for Us in his collection of writings called The Dance of Life. If you haven’t discovered Henri Nouwen, I highly recommend his writings especially if you are like me and struggle with dark nights of the soul. He reaches down to me in those moments and touches me in a way that does not force me to avoid my pain but encourages me to feel it and connect with God in that space. I just love his writing.
The point he made in this essay was that of all the things he’s struggled to “do” in his life to reach out to God, he thinks the most important thing he’s done is to be still and let God find him. He references the scriptures about God being the woman searching for her lost coin and God shepherding and finding the lost sheep. He doesn’t sit back and wait for us to find him. He puts himself out there and hunts for us whether or not we want him; he doesn’t stop because we reject him. He never stops looking for us.
It made me think of all the stuff that is posted on Facebook these days and the things you hear in the media. It always irritates me when I see somebody post something that says “hit like if you believe in Jesus.”. Really? Do you think that’s the way to win souls to Christ? They might be moved to a little action if they feel guilty, but to win a soul, you have to touch them where they are and accept them as they are. I believe it is about building relationship. It’s not about winning over, making somebody feel guilty or even making them feel moved. God works by building a relationship with each of us personally. And, a relationship is much more than being moved in a moment. It takes time, vulnerability, acceptance, compassion, love and gentleness.
Ken Blanchard, an icon in my field of Learning and Development, spoke at a seminar I attended regarding an organization called Lead Like Jesus. He talked about how he discovered Christianity. It was long after he became an icon in the leadership field. He was skeptical about Christianity and a bit turned off by it. But, he liked to learn. So, he began reading the Bible. Once he began reading it, he realized its concepts and teachings were very much in line with what he had written and believed about leadership. He was influenced by God long before he ever knew it. But, God reached him in his own space. Nobody guilted him into reaching out. He didn’t have to be in pain and want peace. He loved learning and leadership, and God found him there.
Blanchard had met with Norman Vincent Peale for an entire day before Peale’s death. He asked him a question that had troubled him about Christianity for a long time. “What happens to my wonderful friends that are Jewish or Muslim after they die? I know some wonderful, good people that are not Christian. Do you really think that they won’t go to Heaven?” Peale answered, “I believe in a loving God, and I believe that they will be handled in a loving way. Besides, I’m in sales; I’m not in management. I don’t have to worry about that.” I LOVED that answer.
I was married to a stellar salesman. He taught me that sales is about relationship. You don’t go in and try to sell right away. You go in focused on building a relationship. If you build a relationship, and you understand a person’s needs and what makes them tick, the selling will just happen naturally at some point if they want what you have. Quit selling and start building relationships with everybody. If they want what you have, they’ll ask for it. You don’t have to sell it to them. It doesn’t matter what they believe, who they are, what they choose to do with their life. Love them where they are. That’s why 12 step programs worked for me when churches never could. They accepted me with all my mess and mistakes and pain just where I was. They didn’t promise me an easy life; they promised me a life where I would be supported through difficulty. They didn’t promise anything except a new way of living. All they did was build a relationship with me, and when I watched them long enough, I wanted what they had. That’s how my soul was captured by God. I didn’t go seeking God. I was found in the context of relationship.