I find that my heart is burdened this morning. I say that not for dramatic effect or as some sort of cleverly conceived attention grabber. It is just a matter of fact and indeed the reason for this post.
When I get this impacted I find that the best response is to do something about it. Prayer, writing, – some for of expressing the feelings held within.
And what has me feeling this way? Love actually, well overwhelming love actually.
The other morning I sat and listened as a lady came into the building I was in and asked someone I know – a fellow believer – for directions. They were very politely given the requested directions and in response then asked the question -“Oh so what is it you do here then?”
What followed was (I would like to say) one of the most enthusiastic explanation of church and the gospel I have seen for a long time. Sadly, I placed (I would like to say) in brackets because the truth is I really can’t say that. And sadly I have witnessed what happened a number of different times now.
No, what I witnessed was not the most enthusiastic explanation of church and the gospel but instead just an overwhelming and quite intimidating bombardment of regurgitated clichés and statements.
Don’t get me wrong. I am sure it was well intentioned and I am without doubt that it was fueled by love and concern and passion. But sitting there listening it just came across as an in-your-face, overwhelming tirade of words and challenges.
Now I need to be fair here and at the same time be objective and honest. I have mental health difficulties and I accept that I am acutely aware and probably acutely sensitive to such things. I do accept therefore that it is possible that the lady in question felt far less overwhelmed than I did by it all. But having witnessed it and her reactions – I seriously doubt it.
And this seriously impacted me on two fronts…
Firstly, and most importantly, because I couldn’t help fearing that this kind of over-zealous approach does do more to frighten people away than to draw them in.
I love Christ and I am passionate about my faith. I am also passionate about spreading the gospel of peace and sharing God’s love with folk. I am convinced that the eternal picture for anyone who does not have Christ is the bleakest we could ever imagine. But I am also convinced that for that gospel of peace to be of any effect we have to be able to receive it and to process it.
A parched or starving man coming out of the desert is ill-advised to gulp at the food or water offered. He simply can’t process it and begins to choke. He needs to be fed slowly and compassionately and carefully.
Which brings me to the second front I was impacted on. That of my own mental health difficulties. And again it is to do with the ability to process things. Very often, when my mind is in disarray or turmoil, I find it almost impossible to process the simplest of things.
Even more than that, things come at me like darts or projectiles. They seem – in my mind – to bombard me or close in on me. Even the most innocuous or well intentioned comment – even the most loving of gestures can be overwhelming. And this seems to happen on a sliding scale – the more my mind is playing up the more difficulty I have, the less my mind is playing up the less difficulty I have.
Isn’t that the way for so many of us – regardless of mental health difficulties? I certainly think it is. But for those of us who do suffer with mental health difficulties this is even greater I think.
Which leaves us with the question, “How do we demonstrate our love, and more importantly Christ’s love, in such a way that it is processable and can therefore be received?
And here, I can only answer honestly. And that is to answer that our love MUST be truly selfless. In other words, I truly believe that it must be given in a way which is tailored to the needs of the person receiving that love and NOT to the needs of the person giving it.
You see, in the instance I mentioned above – the one which impacted me so deeply, and which gave rise to my reflections and indeed this post – I have not one doubt that it was generated out of love.
A love for Christ. A love for the gospel and a love for spreading that gospel.
I am also willing to accept that it was in part out of love for the person they were speaking to and their eternal situation. But the fact is that the delivery was fueled and propelled only by that love and that concern for that person’s eternal situation and not with any regard to their current situation.
I am convinced however, that if we are to truly minister God’s love. If we are to truly spread the gospel of peace. We MUST do so in a way which is real and relevant and receivable.
And I close this post with one final statement and with – since I am convinced that the final authority must be God’s word – a passage of scripture.
“When love is overwhelming, no matter how loving it is, it simply remains overwhelming.”