I am increasingly aware of the hopelessness in our society that seems to exist like a thick fog. I understand that most of that hopelessness is masqueraded with busy lives, conversations centered on frivolous topics and the propensity to show off on social media. The more you stop and listen and filter out the noise, the more you here the cries of those around you.
I am reminded of Horton, the main character in Dr Seuss’s “Horton Hears a Who.” The basic premise is that Horton, an elephant, has the capacity of hearing the cries of the Who and then spares them from utter destruction from Horton’s naïve peers who assume that because they don’t hear what Horton hears, Horton must be crazy. Horton maintains the mantra that, “a person’s a person, no matter how small”. Horton has the ability to hear what everyone else can’t. I could learn a thing or two from Horton. I am convinced that the faster I move in life, the less I hear. I may be under the illusion that I am truly hearing and seeing what is around me; all the while I pride myself in my ability to multitask at lightening speed with utmost efficiency (BRAVO Stephan….really?). However, the reality of it is, I am not hearing at all. I am hearing my assumptions, my opinions, my presumptions, but I am not hearing reality. I realize that when I slow down, I see and hear things that sometimes no one else sees or hears…and it’s usually the hidden key that everyone is looking for. The source of this key is the Holy Spirit. The ability to hear the voice of God and discern His will.
The more I hear and see what God see’s, the more I will recognize the hurt, pain and brokenness around me. I am then compelled as a follower of Jesus to stand in the gap, bring hope, just like Horton. One of my favorite verses in the Bible is found in 1 Peter 3:15, “Be ready always to give a reason for the hope that is in you and do it with gentleness and respect.” Would you allow me a minute to unpack this? The operative word is HOPE. The Bible verse implies that someone is going to come up to me and ask me about the reason of the hope that I possess. However, what if I am not displaying hope? What if I am always worried, anxious, spouting off gossip, bad mouthing people, angry, only talking about what is failing in our world, country, life etc.? Frankly, no one is going to approach me and say, “Hey, can you give me the reason for the Hope that is in you”. Why, because they don’t see hope in me. Christians should be dispensers of hope….like Pez candy.
Therefore, if I display hope in my life, which does not mean that I have to pretend everything is perfect, then people that observe my life will reach out and say, “hey, give me the reason (source) of that hope you have.” Once that is asked, I can simply respond with my story. I love the old saying that says, “success builds walls and failure builds bridges”. That’s part of my story. My story is real; it has drama; it has victory, failure, intrigue, emotion, success, loneliness, pain, loss, gain, joy (Do I need to go on? Does my life sound normal, like yours?). My story will always point back to God’s faithfulness. God appears as a constant in my life and is the source of my hope and that becomes my testimony (my story).
However, it’s really important to tell your story with a spirit of gentleness and respect. We could all learn a little more about how to tell our story in a gentle manner laced with utmost respect to the listener. I assume that if someone comes to me and asks me about my hope, they are in a place of some form of hopelessness. In other words, I am hopeFULL and they are hopeLESS. That situation is a vulnerable one, in some cases an embarrassing one. I am coming to you with my mixed up life in a state of hopelessness, coupled with anxiety, stress, embarrassment etc., and I am risking ridicule by asking you why in the world you seem to have it all together and my life is a mess. How you respond makes all the difference. A response with a tone of, “I told you so” does not bear fruit. A response that is gentle and respectful is affirming and solicits more questions and an honest exchange. Try it.
Therefore, it’s important that if I desire to see what God sees and hear what God hears that I need to be able to filter out the noise. One of the ways that I do that is to make sure that I am tapped into a deep well. The source of my strength, peace and joy must come from a source other then myself (often masqueraded in my sheer discipline and “can do” attitude). The source is found when I simply surrender and allow God to reveal Himself to me. He gives me access to Himself. I must walk with God, and in that walk I gain God’s perspective and strength. I call it the “proximity principal.” The closer I am to God the more I hear him and understand His perspective. The farther away the less of Him I understand. Does this ring true in a marriage? A friendship? God’s character and personality becomes contagious and frankly compelling. People will want what you have and there in lies the opportunity to genuinely tell your story.
Therefore, let’s be contagious Christians, who live such colorful and hopeful lives that others want what we have and have the boldness to ask us about it. However, it starts with each of us deciding to plug into the power of a vibrant and daily life with Jesus.
Stephan N. Tchividjian is the president and founder of the National Christian Foundation South Florida. Visit southflorida.ncfgiving.com to learn more.