So, let’s just get this out of the way up front. Today’s post is a little awkward because it involves something that we don’t often talk about. The word begins with “F” and rhymes with art.
I think you catch my drift. So why am I talking about it? Read on and you’ll see.
Back in November, my brother, his wife, Greg and I, and my dad enjoyed a 10-day Caribbean cruise together. We ate great food and even some not so great food. We enjoyed tours on the islands and there was plenty of time in the sun. We even took steel drum lessons which was not only fun but LOUD. Yes, the cruise was everything we anticipated it would be.
But there was that one awkward moment.
The ships are huge and the elevators often crowded so my philosophy is to take the stairs whenever possible. It gets you to your destination faster and the exercise helps offset the extraordinary number of calories consumed through the day.
Typically, you run into other people using the stairs but on one of my stair-climbing expeditions, it was just me and a lady coming down as I was going up. We acknowledged each other with the usual head nod but on this occasion, the lady also acknowledged me out loud. With…you guessed it…a fart.
I didn’t know what to do.
Had I been with my family or in church, I might have snickered or even burst out laughing. But this was a stranger to me and in a flash all sorts of scenarios went through my head. First was the thought This is a completely natural thing; we all fart. And then I wondered if I was the one passing gas, would I have acknowledged it by apologizing or saying “oops?” I had no idea. I even thought about saying “oops” myself with a smile so she would know I wasn’t at all offended.
As it turns out, neither of us said or did anything. There was no acknowledgement, we just continued on our way. Thought, I have to admit I had quite a smile on my face as climbed the remaining stairs. Maybe because it was funny or maybe because I was glad it hadn’t been me.
Awkward moments happen all the time.
We encounter awkward situations all the time and like the one above we don’t always know how to respond. After asking a neighbor how they’re doing we might hear back “Well, I lost my job so not great.” Or “Life is rough now, my drug addicted 40-year old son just relapsed for the third time.” One time I asked the how-ya-doing question almost like saying hello and I was surprised when the person burst out crying instead of saying fine.
While times like that can be a bit awkward, they also open the door to real ministry. When a person bursts out crying right in front of you, it shows me their need for comfort, reassurance, or someone to care. Right then, right now.
And the same often holds true when the unexpected answer to your greeting reveals a lost job, marital infidelity, or a child with drug problems, etc.
What to do?
It can be difficult for people to reach out and ask for that help or to simply admit they’re experiencing a rough time. But if someone takes the time to respond to your simple greeting or if they come to you for help all on their own, please, please be ready to respond. Here are a few ideas to get you started.
- Be ready for the unexpected. If you ask how someone is doing, be prepared for anything. And respond appropriately. Sometimes all that’s needed is a kind word, some sincere reassurance, a hug. Proverbs 12:25 says “Anxiety weighs down the heart, but a kind word cheers it up.”
- Do something. Don’t just nod your head. In addition, offer something and be specific, be practical. I’m sorry you’re going through this. May I pray with you right now? I can see you’re overwhelmed; I’d like to ease the load and provide a meal. Or can I run that errand for you?
- Follow-up. Many will vaguely offer help but leave it at that. Or they might even help ONCE and then never check in. Be the one who stays connected, who shows you care long-term. Be the one who digs in for the long haul with the one needing help so they don’t feel alone.
Ministry isn’t always convenient or easy or a one-time deal. You often pay a cost such as an expenditure of time or money. But boy, is the payoff worth it!
Matthew 25:40 reminds us: (Jesus talking) “I tell you the truth, anything you did for even the least of my people here, you also did for me.’