A Discipler's Guide to Spiritual Conversations (4/7): Sharing
In this series, we’ve discussed how discipleship consists of spiritual conversations within the context of relationship. These conversations begin with being present and listening. Now we are ready to talk about sharing. Once someone has shared an aspect of their story with you, then you have the opportunity not to preach at them, but instead to share a part of your story that connects with their story. It’s here people are able to see you are just like them. It’s here you can share what God has shown and taught you in light of the topic on the table. And it’s here those who aren’t ready for “meat” (a look at the Scriptures), are discipled with “milk” (stories of how you have been shaped by the Person and promises of Jesus).
The posture of sharing from a common need is so refreshing. Rather than telling people how messed up they are and how you have answers for them, sharing your story in light of theirs actually levels the playing field. You’re not a hero here to save them. In fact, you’re just like them, a broken person desperately in need of rescue from the Savior. Your story isn’t that Jesus just improved a generally decent person. No! Your story is that Jesus has replaced a hell-bent person who thought they could manage right and wrong apart from their Creator. And isn’t that everyone’s story?
By sharing our common brokenness and shared need, we can then introduce Jesus in a way that is meaningful. It is in our weakness that Jesus is seen as the hero He is. There’s only One in the winner’s circle (Hint: it's not you or me).
For example, I often hear people share of their deep sense of needing to prove themselves. Whether it’s through excelling in school, getting a promotion at work, or having the flyest sneakers, we have a desire to show our value and worth through achievements. One such discussion was with a friend Roger (not his real name). Roger grew up in a difficult, abusive home. He was physically and emotionally abused and remembers as a young man feeling, “if there is a God, he doesn’t love me.”
Roger wanted so much to not repeat the abuse of his past with his children. So much so that he prided himself on all the things he was able to provide for his kids and worked very hard to do so. Yet, Roger wasn’t living in the freedom of the gospel. He was constantly trying to prove he was a better parent than he had AND that he was good enough to be valued by the same people who he wanted nothing to do with. Can you relate?
As Roger and I got to know each other, shared meals and conversation together, I was able to share some of my own story with him. I told him something like this:
“Roger, my story isn’t the same as yours. I wasn’t abused in the same way you were. My parents always tried to care for me and were affectionate. Yet, I feel I can relate to you in needing to show that I am significant or worthy. You see, when I was about 10 years old, my parents got divorced and life wasn’t the same for me. Shortly after that, we moved a long distance from my dad and I really didn’t get to see him that often. So while he tried to be in my life, he wasn’t able to. As a result, I found myself getting angry that he wasn’t around and I tried to prove that I was worth loving by being ‘a good kid’. And I excelled at looking the part.
Fast-forward many years and I have a life that is marked by frustration and bitterness for not having the parents I wanted and always trying to prove to others that I am worth loving. Whether it was through how I excelled in school, work, athletics, or just making people laugh so they will like me, I craved approval so I could sense that I was worthy. What I found was when people approved of me, I was happy, but their approval didn’t always last. When people would reject me, leave, or even if I offended them, I would be devastated. I mean crushed. I was worthless. So I would re-double my efforts to prove myself worthy again. But the stress of trying to be perfect was an overwhelming burden. I was hiding the hurt so people would like me. I got so good at hiding, I had even convinced myself!
But here’s what I’ve discovered. In Jesus, we are fully and perfectly loved and approved of by God. The One who created us, loves us. He took on flesh and among us, and in the Person of Jesus, declaring to me and you that we can lay down our need to prove ourselves, Jesus has done it for us. Jesus proved none of us are sufficient and all are in need of rescue. And then, He rescued us! All we need to do is believe. For me, the result has been a complete freeing of the weight of needing to prove myself. I am realizing that I am already perfectly loved and this removes the burden of needing others to love me perfectly in order to feel good about myself. Through faith in Christ, I am fully loved and approved -- I lack nothing. Do you see the freedom in this?
Roger, like many others, came to trust in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus for his own. It didn’t happen from one conversation, but over time, his eyes were opened to the beauty of Jesus and the freedom found in Him. When we listen and share our story in light of where they are, we are given many opportunities to tell of who Jesus is and what He has done in incredibly compelling ways.