by Jennifer Slattery
So when you, a mere human being, pass judgment on them and yet do the same things, do you think you will escape God’s judgment? Or do you show contempt for the riches of his kindness, forbearance and patience, not realizing that God’s kindness is intended to lead you to repentance? Romans 2:3-4 NIV
My daughter could’ve become a statistic, part of the growing “unchurched” population, many of whom left not due to unbelief, but rather, hurt; wounds caused by those who claim to follow Jesus but behave nothing like Him.
The problem is, you and I rarely know what lies beneath the surface. As a result, we often attack symptoms, rather than taking the time to get to the root.
Like a tender flower nurtured or trampled, faith blossoms or dies in the heart. This, therefore, is our target. To reach it, we must listen well, a skill in which I’m sorely deficient. As a result, I’ve hurt others and have shut down eternally significant conversations. In my failure to truly hear (both the person and the Holy Spirit within me), I’ve created barriers, not only between myself and another person, but I fear between them and God as well.
I almost did that with my daughter during her teen years. I knew once she left the home, (a day that was rapidly approaching), she could walk away from the faith for good. In fear, I began to push. Thankfully, my husband remained sensitive to the Spirit’s prompting. After watching our interactions and the tension growing between my daughter and I, he urged me to stop. To pull back before I pushed her away.
So I did. I dropped conversations regarding God and surrendered our daughter to Christ.
Surrender reminds us that God does indeed know best how to reach the hearts He created. Trusting this to be true with my daughter, I turned every anxious thought to prayer. I prayed He’d soften her heart, speak to her in ways only He could, guide me daily in how to respond, and give me the strength and courage to obey. To truly live as an instrument of His perfect, brilliant, life-changing love and grace.
And in the meantime, I waited and loved, with an ever-attentive ear to Christ and everything my daughter was and wasn’t saying. While this felt frightening at the time, God taught me that beauty and healing unfold when we are “quick to listen [and] slow to speak” (James 1:19 NIV).
For my daughter, it took about a year and a half of listening, waiting, and praying before the truth came out. Contrary to what I’d thought, she wasn’t pulling away out of disbelief. It wasn’t all her secular influence that had captured and deceived her heart. It was God’s children, those who had spoken judgement and condemnation, that had.
As a result, pain had become tangled with faith, causing every church service, worship song, and family Bible reading to trigger those wounds buried deep within.
And I almost missed it.
I’ve since discovered, my daughter’s experience is far from unique. So many of the people we interact with each day, maybe even try to share our faith with, appear angry on the outside, but inside, they’re wounded.
But we belong to a God who “searches and knows” us. Who actively plunges the depths of the human soul, uncovering those deeply hidden hurts no one else sees, or perhaps, has even taken the time to uncover. And Scripture says we’re His ambassadors, His representatives and image-bearers. That we are to act as instruments of healing, because Scripture tells us it’s His kindness, not our rebuttals, that lead to repentance.
God truly does have the power to change lives and save souls. That’s not to say we should never speak truth, but rather, that we do so always and only as God leads.
May you and I stop throwing up road blocks and begin paving loving, safe pathways instead.
This article is brought to you by the Advanced Writers and Speakers Association (AWSA).
About the author: Jennifer Slattery is a multi-published author, ministry, and the host of the Faith Over Fear Podcast. Find her online at JenniferSlatteryLivesOutLoud.com, find her ministry at WhollyLoved.com, and find her podcast at LifeAudio.com and other popular podcasting sites.
In her new podcast, Faith Over Fear, Jennifer helps us see different areas of life where fear has a foothold, and how our identity as children of God can help us move from fear to faithful, bold living. You can listen by clicking on the link below or by visiting LifeAudio.com.
Join the conversation: How do you show someone you are listening?