About once a month I get a note, email, or comment where a friend of mine tries to assume they kind of know what kind of journey would be best for me as I have faced blindness. It usually comes in the form of recommending a technology that will alter my life in some sort of way where I could have artificial sight, be healed instantly through prayer, or commending my wife for enduring such terrible hardship for marrying a blind person. I don’t suppose this kind of assumption is all that unique to me as we all face people assuming things about us – thinking we’re worse off than we actually are, suggesting appropriate life choices etc. – but I guess I kind of wonder where all the desire to guide others comes from. Maybe people think they are helping. Maybe they feel bad for a person’s situation. Maybe the brain just isn’t engaged so much.

In light of our transition as it relates to our personal health and future independence, I have received a lot of comments in the other direction. Comments of encouragement, people that have engaged their heart and mind before they speak, and just and overall understanding of walking with us. I have had two or three emails come in where someone said something to the effect of “I wanted to wait to respond to really mean what I say and not sound like one of Job’s friends. I have no idea what you’re facing.” Wouldn’t it be good if we approached a lot of situations like this? Assuming what is best for someone when God may be using pain, trial, and challenge to display His perfect strength is a pretty messed up starting point. Stepping back rather than forward is probably a good first step toward compassion and walking with friends.

This kind of compassion and empathy can help so much as we try to hang with our neighbors and lead in discipling relationships. Rather than a truth that is used as a sword that wounds and kills an already wounded soul, our words and acts of prophecy and compassion can be the sharp double-edged sword with the healing balm of Christ on the tip. No doubt the truth of God and His absolute perfection stings. It hurts. The closer we get to Jesus, sometimes the more painful it becomes. But, in living empathetic, compassionate lives with our friends the healing of Jesus can come in powerful ways. Once we get settled back in the US and find the exact place where God would have us serve the Bhutanese-Nepali people, it will be this sort of steady walking with people that creates the gateway for the Gospel. I’m hopeful I can hold on to these emails to remember what it felt like to be encouraged and led towards Jesus in these moments.

When we lived in St. Paul, I would often tell interns and newbies to the ministry that we were fostering trust over and over again in a community that had no reason to trust anyone. Most of our friends were victims of war, atrocities, and abandonment. Staying in the lives of people day in and day out is not some sort of pansy way to share Christ. Racing to proclamation without any sort of community is kind of like running a marathon with no training. Truth without love can be disastrous as can love without truth.

So there is my story for today. Maybe I’m kind of saying we should know the story of people before we spout off something we think is all great. Advice, the Gospel, good things – they are hard to hear without any context. Undoubtedly, God can use all of us with all sorts of approaches to how we live out His reality and make Him known but I choose the long steady fight for joy and trust as I try to love my friends (and enemies) well. Thanks for helping me along.

7 But whatever were gains to me I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. 8 What is more, I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them garbage, that I may gain Christ 9 and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ—the righteousness that comes from God on the basis of faith. 10 I want to know Christ—yes, to know the power of his resurrection and participation in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, 11 and so, somehow, attaining to the resurrection from the dead.

12 Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already arrived at my goal, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. 13 Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, 14 I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.

15 All of us, then, who are mature should take such a view of things. And if on some point you think differently, that too God will make clear to you. 16 Only let us live up to what we have already attained. (Philippians 3, NIV)