When I was a kid, most nights after tucking in, my dad would read us stories.
At the time, it never occurred to me that our time spent together was significant or important. It just was, in the same way his snores that echoed across the hall meant we were safe, and everything was going to be okay.
(man, can he snore.)
The stories he read were epic and extraordinary. Kings and queens, warriors and peasants, wars and love and honor and betrayal. He read of miracles and mysteries, defiance and victory, of great men and stoic women, even of children who changed the world.
I craved those stories, read to me as the sun set and the day wound down. I remember feeling as though I’d won the lottery when he made time to read to us, my vision blurring from reality as the pictures in my head grew bright and vibrant, carrying me away to a different time and place.
It wasn’t until I was grown and gone that I realized nearly every story he read, all those stories I still remember by heart, came straight from the Bible. Very rarely did he read any other book.
Daniel and the Lion’s Den.
Ruth and Naomi, a story of loyalty.
Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego in the firey furnace.
Esther and Xerxes and the power of defiant obedience.
David and Goliath, and the victory of faith over power and pride.
Joseph and his amazing gift of organization, that helped him to feed a nation.
Jacob and Esau, and the damage of jealousy and comparison.
Adam and Eve. Cain and Abel. Abraham and Isaac. Joshua and Jericho. Lot and his wife.
My dad wasn’t just telling me stories, he was teaching me about God.
I didn’t even notice. Sneaky bugger.
As an adult myself, a mother hen with three chicks tucked under my wings, I now understand what it was my father did. He read the Bible, his big, clunky King James red print Bible, but he changed it. The names stayed the same, but he changed the delivery, translated it for our tiny ears, turning the “these” and “thous” into words we could understand.
He changed the story just enough to make it hit home, and repeated the stories enough times that we would remember them, long after our night time story routine had passed.
And remember them I do. I take for grated the depth of knowledge I have of the Bible. Even now I am astonished when I pull from the dusty recesses of my mind a parable or story to relate to every day life, complete with Book and chapter and verse. I remember the stories well, because I heard them well.
One of the many hats I wear is that of a personal coach, mentor, therapist, and consultant. I work with women seeking truth, women seeking business advice, women recovering from addiction and the dangerous hold of disordered eating.
My blessed 40 years of life have granted me the opportunity to experience each of these things for myself. It could be argued that some of those experiences are bad ones, but I’m not so sure. With perfect stewardship, God uses the crap I’ve endured to teach others, and He has molded me into an effective messenger. I teach others the hard knock lessons I’ve learned in the hopes they make fewer mistakes themselves, and for the most part, the lessons are learned well.
The clients I take come in many forms, from many races, countries, and walks of life. I serve Christians and non-Christians alike, without judgment or prejudice. Although I do believe the truths of Christ are THE answer to finding joy and fulfillment, I also believe that His truths must be presented to people in a way they will hear, and meet them where they’re at.
…kind of in the same way Dad changed the stories of the Bible, so we’d understand as children.
In this world we live in, in this country and culture that is actively running from God, it is tempting to yell. To shout and scream, to point out the follies of the foolish and the lies of the misled. We want to FIX THINGS, fix people, to direct those that wander and straighten crooked paths.
We want to get on a soap box and preach the Gospel, like the homeless man I knew who lived on the streets in downtown Seattle, complete with cardboard sign and blow horn, and yell and scream at the shoppers and sinners and businessmen and liberal, forward thinking, Godless masses and as they pass by and live their lives.
As they race toward Gomorrah, their faces fierce with lusty passion, their eyes glazed over with desperate, fleshy desire, we want to stop them.
We want to stop them for them, and we want to stop them for us. Not only will our lives be easier when everyone follows the same, God given rules, but God calls us to speak out and tell His story.
Yelling is the easiest way (and let’s be honest, it feels the best), but I propose a different one.
Change your delivery.
Understand that the ears that need to hear are NEW. Regardless of their age, in the eyes of Christ and to the love He offers, they’re children.
Teach and speak with the patience you’d give to children.
In my experience with manager and leadership development, there is one truth I teach consistently that also is one of the most difficult to accept. Perhaps it is tough to swallow because most managers and leaders are Type A people, strong willed and aggressive, and this lesson is counterintuitive to those character traits.
The lesson is this:
People will either remember what you said or how you said it, not both.
Whether the message you deliver is a mother’s request, a manager’s order, or the Word of God to someone who desperately needs it (even if none of the listeners think they need those things), the person listening to you will remember what you said, if it is delivered in the way they need to hear it.
I wonder, as I write this, whether or not the Disciples struggled with this? In the Book of Acts, when the Disciples headed out to tell the greatest story ever told, did they worry about delivery? I’d imagine not, since they were carrying tongues of flame in their minds and hearts, but still. Did they worry that their humanity, their flesh and frustration and human nature would get in the way of the Word?
(probably not that either, guys don’t usually worry about such things.)
I am sure, regardless, that God sent twelve men with twelve different personalities and twelve methods of delivery, because we need to hear things differently. Every individual standing in every audience would relate to ONE of the Disciples, and the message would be heard.
At River Ridge, we strive to seek God. We mess it up sometimes, of course, being made of sinful flesh and bone, but we do try. We’ve made God one of our Four Core Values, because we want connection with Him to be an inevitable outcome for each of our business endeavors.
In an effort to speak God’s truth to everyone, we try to meet people where they’re at. We don’t preach or evangelize to those who aren’t interested, but we do try to reach those around us in the way they’re best suited to hear. God’s truth is universal; no matter the method of delivery, if it is heard, it will be received.
“For since the creation of the world God's invisible qualities--his eternal power and divine nature--have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse.” Romans 1:20
In other words, "even if you eff up the delivery or wrap God's word in a don't-beat-them-over-the-head-with-your-Bible palatable package, the truth will be evident when it's heard."
As it is with you, God has created us in a specific, purposeful way (in our case, a quirky, abrasive, blue collar way) to reach those He feels He can reach through us, just as we are. We do our best to speak the truth as we see it, give credit where it is due, serve those who come to us for service, and love.
Love big, love hard, love endlessly as we are loved.
We trust God will do the rest.
“Be wise in the way you act toward outsiders; make the most of every opportunity. Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone.”
“Christianity is one beggar telling another beggar where he found bread.”
~ D.T. Niles