Sunday, 27 April 2014

Power belongs to those who care less?

Quickening my pace I made my way down the wet sidewalk, inwardly cursing myself for not bringing an umbrella... or rain boots. Fortunately, I was nearing the coffee shop where I was to meet one of my dear friends. We’ve always preferred to meet up in warmly lit places where the air is filled with chai and ginger cookies, catching up on the little details of life.

“How are you?” I asked Nicole, while I shook water droplets from my jacket.

“I’m fine.”

“…You’re not.”

“No, I AM. I’m fine. It’s just – I don’t know, this whole thing – that isn’t a thing – with James.”

“Have you guys been talking a lot?” I asked, taking a sip of latte from my mug. James was a guy that Nicole knew from church and had been interested in for a couple of months.

“Well, we hung out a couple of times, but … nothing seems to be progressing,” she breathed. “I keep telling myself that I don’t care, because it doesn’t really seem like he does. Or well, sometimes it seems he really likes me … and then nothing.”

Nicole glanced down at her phone at the black screen of no new messages. She intentionally placed it down and crossed her arms, looking up at me, “I think … think I’m done.”

In that moment I understood what she was really saying, “Caring is too hard. I can’t do it anymore. It’s too scary; I’m safer if I just hide behind this wall I have now decided to build.”
About half way through our coffee date, Nicole’s phone lit up. I watched as she peered down at the message and then purposely placed her phone in her bag.

“Was that James?" I asked, my curiosity tingling. 

“Yep,” Nicole replied, lacking emotion.

“Hello, aren’t you going to respond!?”

“No,” Nicole said with conviction. “I don’t care. He can see how it feels to be ignored for once.”

I was disheartened as she changed the subject. We didn’t revisit the topic of James for the remainder of our time together; but as I was walking back to my car, the sun finally beaming from behind the clouds, I began to ponder some of the implications our conversation held. Thinking, not for the first time, why in our nation it seems whoever cares less holds all the power. Why is it that the ultimate personification of “attractive” seems to be a concoction of indifference and emotional aloofness?

My heart ached as I realized that we've traded in vulnerability, and genuine empathy for a facade - a facade that loudly declares “caring is beneath me”. We value nonchalance above consideration.
Like pieces of a puzzle coming together, I began to realize that I was just as guilty of this as Nicole and James. Countless times I’ve deliberately waited to answer a text or Facebook message. How often do I hide behind humor and sarcasm to deviate from my feelings?

Why though?
I have asked myself this for a long while and still do not have a clear answer. I know it has to do with desiring safety. I also know that it is wise to guard and protect your heart. However, how often is our motivation for “guarding” out of fear rather than wisdom?  Is the reason we hide behind this façade of indifference because we are being wise and guarded? Or is it because we fear vulnerability, lest someone wound us? Why is pretending not to care, when we actually do, the ultimate?

Because then we have all the power to wound and no perceived weakness.
But this is not power. It is merely a cheap façade that comes from partaking in the illusion. This, at the very core and definition, is cowardice. Cowards flee from battle, hiding behind bricks. Heroes humble themselves for the benefit of others. Heroes run into the heat of the battle knowing they may become wounded. But they know there’s something worth fighting for, worth more than their own safety.
That’s true power. Making people feel safe. Helping them believe again. Hope again.
Compassion and empathy is the goal. Never indifference. No friendship, no romance, no legendary story, nothing worth anything was ever built on indifference. Not even your image. Because to put it quite frankly, no one likes that image, it makes people belittled and worthless.

Intentionally making people believe that they are unworthy of your attention is not, and will never be, attractive.


Tuesday, 1 April 2014

Un-distracted Prayer

  Perhaps the most profound privilege of the Christian life is having the opportunity to storm into the throne of grace and fervently pray for the things burdening our heart. However, anyone who has ventured on such a heroic act would readily agree that it requires much focused attention to fix your eyes on Jesus – and keep them there. Although it may begin as a well-intended, passionate time of communication with God, things can quickly turn into a mental struggle where our brain becomes a revolving door with random thoughts trailing in and out.

While none of us have reached perfection in this area, every morning is a new opportunity to present our full attention to Christ and allow Him to renew us through prayer. If we are intentional about addressing (or removing) anything that might stand in the way of communion with our Savior, He will be faithful to shape us into the mighty men and women of prayer we are all called to be.

Some friends / mentors of mine were kind enough to send me their thoughts on this subject and I have no doubt you’ll benefit from their wisdom and experience:

Yes, I am afraid un-distracted prayer is something that is never fully conquered, a battle never fully won. I have heard of and tried many tricks but my favorite will always be an idea I heard from a pastor at a church conference several years back. He said every morning he made himself and God each a cup of coffee. So while the pastor sat and prayed he always had the second cups presence to remind him someone else was in the room with him. I find this a comical but very affective trick.

I used to struggle against what I called distracting thoughts - thoughts that jumped from one person or issue to another, and stopped conscious prayer mid-sentence. Then I read somewhere that it's okay to embrace the scattered thoughts and draw them into prayers. Pray for each random person that comes to mind. There is a lot to be said for disciplined, focused prayer, I am sure, but for where I am in my life roles right now, I appreciated the freedom this concept brought: that the seemingly distracting thoughts can also be a means to communing with God if they are wrapped up in words offered to Him. Intercession can be a fleeting few seconds or concentrated hour. As a busy mom, I'm at the fleeting seconds stage, and I am grateful for the guiltless freedom to connect with God in this simple way. He wants to hear from me, and right now this means just turning my ever-leaping thoughts toward Him, and taming them in prayer. This was a good exercise in pondering my prayer times.

When I am praying, and I know it is going to be a longer time spent in prayer, i.e. prayer closet, I do my best to clear my head of everything else. The main thing that I do is I pray out loud. When I pray out loud, yes, the prayer might go slower, but then it is more difficult for me to get distracted. And I go in with the attitude that this is the time I have promised God, I GET to talk to my Jesus! The ONE who loves me, and forgives me, who doesn’t hold any sin against me after repentance! My love for him should be shown through talking to him. –If I can have a conversation with my best friend for hours and hours with no breaks, and no distractions, I can do that with Jesus as well.

I think for me praying on paper is the most helpful. I write out prayers in my journal. I read a book about prayer God's word by Beth more a long time ago and I had a pastor's wife teach me a bit about it too. The idea is that to pray to God is powerful like a stick of dynamite and God's word is powerful like a stick of dynamite and when you put the two sticks of dynamite together the impact is more explosive.