Dare to Hope

If you know me, you know I love dogs.  I can spot a cute dog a mile away (or really any dog).  My favorite part of working the drive-thru is saying “hi” to all the furry co-pilots.  I also really love babies and kids, but I’m better with dogs (and I think people would be worried if I asked them to pet their kids).

One thing I love about kids and dogs is how uninhibited they are.  They are willing to unashamedly beg, cry, or do whatever they can to get a need met.  They don’t care how ridiculous they look.  Their focus is not on how other’s perceive them.

Uninhibited does not describe me.  In fact, I am exactly the opposite.  One of my friend’s in college loved the verse, “I will become even more undignified than this, and I will be humiliated in my own eyes” (2 Sam. 6:22a, NIV).  I, however, loved the verse, “A man without self-control is like a city broken into and left without walls” (Prov. 25:28, ESV).

Now my friend didn’t run around campus naked (see 2 Sam. 6) and I certainly lack a lot of self-control (see my caloric intake for the week), but her willingness to expose any of her own imperfections for the sake of the gospel was a beautiful pairing with my desire to live a life according to His commands.  The key is: we need both.  I love the way 2 Timothy 1:7 pairs these two concepts, “For God has not given us a spirit of fearfulness, but one of power, love, and sound judgment.”  To God, sound judgment and fearfulness do not go together.  That’s just my skewed version.

People like my friend are rare.  I know very few people as daring as she is.  It’s no surprise that she’s living overseas doing amazing things for Jesus.  Something only someone living by the Spirit could do.  I, however, am pretty normal.  I see a lot of me around.  I see a lot fearfulness guised as self-control.

Knowing me, I’d probably be saying some sort of “but” right now if I were reading this post.

but self-control is biblical!

but the world is a scary place!

but my fearfulness is legit! Look what happened last time I was brave!

So, yes, self-control is biblical.  Please exercise self-control.  Please strive to live a life according to the Bible.  But if you’re like me, check your motives before playing the “self-control” card.  What would it look like to be brave? For most, that’ll include some form of self-control.  It might mean budgeting better so you can bravely donate more money.  It might mean ending a gossip session to bravely share your story.  It might mean skipping lunch to bravely fast and pray.  It could also mean bravely hoping or dreaming again.

(Here’s where I know the “but” would be causing me to want to exit out of this page…hang with me!)

It took my friend 8, hope-filled years to get overseas.  While living here, her heart was torn.  She desperately wanted to go and serve the people God called her to serve.  She kept hitting these road bumps though.  To anyone else, those bumps would have been mountains.  To me, they probably would’ve caused me to look for a different destination.  God used those bumps (or mountains) to create a beautiful step stool for her to get where He called her.  The journey wasn’t easy, it was grueling.  In fact, being there has continued difficulties because of those horrible bumps.  However, she never stopped looking to the goal.  She dared to hope.

When people used to say to me “I just don’t want to get my hopes up,” I used to say, “but that’s what hopes are made for!” I’m not sure that was the most empathic response and I haven’t said it in years, but I do think there is something to be said for that mentality.  Shouldn’t people of faith be the most hope-filled?

How can you dare to hope today? What is it you’re afraid to hope for? How does fear get in the way of living a life of uninhibited faith for the Lord?

Multitasking? Or Not Connecting?

Empathy seems to be a buzz word in my life right now.  It may just be the whole trying to be a therapist thing that makes me keenly aware of the word, but it seems to be everywhere.

As my lack of blogging reflects, lately I’ve been busy.  Probably too busy. I don’t feel that busy.  After all, I’m not juggling as many things as years past, but I think even just working more than full-time is enough to squeeze away any extra space in my ever-changing schedule.  Fast.  The problem is busyness seems to be what destroys empathy the fastest.  I’ve seen that in my own life, but I also see it in the lives of others.  I could give countless examples of this busyness-over-empathy phenomenon, but the example that comes up six days a week for me is in the drive-thru. 

When working at a fast food restaurant (or as Chick-fil-A describes themselves, “a quick service restaurant”), you see the worst of rushed people.  One of my co-workers often quotes the saying “a lack of planning on your part doesn’t constitute an emergency on my part,” but laughs and says “unless you work here!” Her sarcastic remark about sums up our day-to-day experience with catering orders, but in the rush of each order at the drive-thru we see other mini-emergencies hundreds of times a day.  Suddenly, workers go from being people to robots. Despite our best attempts at connecting with guests, our guests often seem to forget they are interacting with people.  (In their defense, we do get them when they’re hangry.  I, too, am not my best right before I eat.) Though so many of our guests are kind, caring people even in their lunch emergencies, the rushed guests tend to taint each shift.  Talking on the phone during a transaction is one of my personal pet peeves.  Drive-thru phone talkers are always distracted, but somehow their distracted mistakes always manage to be our fault.  Their self-focus and lack of listening tends to squelch their ability to really engage.  After rushing through a transaction with a team member, the drive-thru phone talkers often apologize to the person on the other end of the phone (the human that means something to them) and whiz past our workers (who also happen to be human) without a second thought.  This behavior displays so well our busyness-over-empathy society, and our choice to multitask over connect.

Brené Brown describes this so well in a blog post, ironically also written about the same quick service restaurant.  I’ve read a lot of her research, so I’m sure much of what I write on this topic is influenced by her work (whether I realize it or not)…and she writes a lot better than I do!

Our capacity to empathize is so often limited by our inability to listen. Really listen. Do you ever get tired of listening? I do and I’m supposed to making a career out of listening.  It gets old hearing the same thing over and over again.  Close friends would tell you that I often become an advice-giver or a fixer instead of a true listener when I’ve heard the same problem over and over again.  The problem with that (other than that makes for a terrible therapist) is that it lacks empathy.  As a Christian, I would even assert that it lacks love (see 1 Corinthians 13). 

To empathize better, I need to listen better to my friends.  However, I think there are also some smaller steps I need to take.  When the hangry guest comes through the drive-thru, I may need to try to read between the lines of their mini-emergency.  Chick-fil-A also has a powerful training video that displays empathy well, Every Life Has a Story.  Knowing that every life does have a story—from whatever perspective—I want to hear those stories and love the people behind them better.

Where can you listen, empathize, and connect better?

For me, questions that also help me assess this better are:

When/where do I need to multitask less?

When is my own schedule getting in the way of my willingness to listen, empathize, and connect?

Who have I interacted with transactionally today?

When did I treat someone (anyone) as less than human today?

Who can I listen to better?