Catch Your Breath

healingthehurtI’ve learned to take a breath before I speak. When I don’t, I often find myself in a quagmire of problems.

Our lives are stuffed to the brim with space-fillers. With tablets, cell phones, computers, and much more at our fingertips, we can access information and have multiple conversations at once. While e-readers and other screens emphasize the importance of white space for our eyes, we’re constantly sacrificing the white space in our lives. Less white space leads to an overcrowding that pressures us, and our conversations are no exception.

Every second of white space in time doesn’t need to be filled. When we feel the pressure to fill every moment, we’ll begin to anticipate the filling process, thinking of what we want to say next instead of waiting, patiently listening, reflecting, and respectfully responding in turn. Invite processing time. It will take practice, because you’re likely not used to it, and people with whom you converse are certainly just as unfamiliar with it. More white space in conversations creates a slower cadence, a rhythm that flows more than fires. When push and pull is replaced with intentional give and take, the focus can shift from the conversation itself to a respect for the people having the conversation. After all, the relationship is more important than the outcome of the conversation. Words spoken should be driven by the impact they have on the relationship instead of the influence they have on the outcome of the conversation.

Breathing helps as you talk, because it’s an intentional invitation to reflect before responding. As I breathe, I invite God to fill my mind, heart, and words, taking a moment to intentionally yield to him. While it takes some getting used to, it’s not as intrusive or distracting as you might originally think. Most people won’t notice at all. It’s not a deep, cleansing breath, just a regular breath in for oxygen—with an invitation for more nourishing, courageous, and powerful breath. If you find yourself still struggling to listen to the person instead of planning what you’re about to say, you can also use an exhaled breath as you’re listening as a commitment to empty yourself of your self, yielding to and trusting God instead. (Let me admit, I do not always yield well, so I’m not sharing these techniques as someone who has perfected it. I’m a work in progress!)

Inviting breaths into a conversation isn’t just about you. Invite breaths for the other person, too. When somebody pauses to think of a word or finish a thought, wait with them. You might anticipate what you think they’re going to say, but respect them enough to let them finish. It’s nice to be known well enough that someone can finish your thoughts, but it’s also nice to be given the space and time to finish your own thoughts.

Conversations are not a race; they’re an opportunity to engage in relationship. Invite the nourishing rhythm of breathing into your conversations today.

I will be in them and you will be in me so that they will be completely one. Then the world will know that you sent me and that you loved them just as much as you loved me. (John 17:23)

God’s family is certainly not exempt from hurt, including the hurts that come from within. People in churches are just as vulnerable to unjustly criticize, gossip, neglect, and offend one another as anyone else. It’s true that God sets us apart to reflect his image to the world, but to believe Christ-followers are perfect representations of Jesus will, to say the least, lead to disappointment. What (should) set Christ-followers apart from the world is how they deal with one another to heal the hurt. Will they do the hard work it takes to unite or will they further divide into quarreling, backbiting, judgmental factions? Which will you choose? Welcome to Healing the Hurt, a 10-post series to help hurting communities cope in biblical ways.

This Week’s 7: Be The Encouragement You Want

Each Sunday on the Pure Purpose blog, I feature This Week’s 7, a simple list about an everyday topic, giving you ideas and encouragement. Someone from my Facebook page recently requested some practical ideas for encouraging others. She  said, “I would love to see more people being encouraging! Being visible encouragers and doing things that show love in action!” So…I hope these ideas help!

  1. Listen. It’s a simple, but sadly, not-so-common practice. Women need to share. Invite them to do so.
  2. Compliment. I’m not referring to someone’s new shoes or hairstyle. Find a characteristic or action you respect, and let her know you noticed.
  3. Invite. Whether it’s an invitation to serve, have coffee, or step in front of you in line, extending an invitation helps someone see you’re paying attention.
  4. Smile. A warm smile goes a long way. Look for someone with a downcast or preoccupied expression. Make eye contact and share a smile.
  5. Share. Let someone sit in the empty chair at your table or pay for coffee for the woman behind you in line. Sharing your life with someone begins with making space.
  6. Pause. Interact with the cashier or barista. Ask the receptionist a question. Wish the salesperson well. The words you share (or don’t) aren’t just about you. Consider how the person to whom you’re speaking will receive them.
  7. Challenge. Sometimes the best encouragement is a challenge to living by God’s standards. Encouragement isn’t about making someone feel great; it’s about helping them walk a life of great faith. Rely on God’s courage and direction to say the right thing at the right time.

Perfect Pathways

Take delight in the LORD, and he will give you the desires of your heart. Commit your way to the LORD; trust in him and he will do this. (Psalm 37:4-5)

Psalm 37:4 is often used by people who believe they will get what they want if they only love or delight in God enough. When they don’t get what they want, they question how much they love God, or they question God’s responsiveness and trustworthiness.

Let’s not look at Scripture through our own perspective. Let’s dig deeper and discover what God intends us to know about him through these verses. Let’s keep them in context by at least including verse 5.

First, when we delight in God the way he intends, we yield to him, which means our desires become whatever he most desires for us. What we want most is what he wants most for us. We set aside our selfishness. Of course, our love for God isn’t as pure as his love for us. Even with our best intentions and increasing spiritual maturity, there will be room for us to delight in and love him more completely. Therefore, we’ll experience times of tension between what God wants and what we want. We’ll get confused at times. We’ll question our motivation. We never have to question God’s responsiveness or trustworthiness. God purely and securely loves us. He wants us to desire him and longs to give us the desires of our hearts. As we yield to him, inviting him to invade every crevice of our lives, our desires are consumed by his desires.

Second, we’re to “commit” our “way.” In the original Hebrew language, way means a pathway. Commit means to roll. In this verse, to commit indicates our ways being rolled onto God’s. We entrust our path to God. We give up our path to his. Our path becomes his path. Once we completely yield, there is no distinction between his and ours. Ours is now his.

We yield. We trust. We commit.

God gives.

The process is active. Yielding, trusting, and committing don’t automatically happen. We must be attentive and responsive. We must be teachable. We must be willing to invite God to reveal the pieces of our lives we’re withholding – intentionally or not – from God.

We don’t yield, trust, and commit in order to get what we want. Being selfish is counter-productive to the truth of these verses. Only in humility can we yield. Only with trust can we commit.

If you’re following Christ, what are your intentions? Consider the “why” of your faith.

In what areas of your life are you struggling to yield, trust, or commit? What areas are you ignoring?

Be intentional as you take the next steps. God has a perfect pathway ready for you. Will you step onto it in faith?