Dear Church

Hello friends,

I am one of you and have been since I started tentatively on the journey eighteen years ago. It was a shy start, an uncertain start, an almost defiant start (“God, if You are there, show Yourself to me.”); but it was a beginning. That’s what’s important.

Tonight, I want to talk to you about something I’ve cared deeply about for a long time. You see, we’re all pretty good at supporting our missionaries by writing the cheques and blessing them at prayer service. We shake hands with our pastors and give them goodies at Christmas and maybe even send them a text to let them know we are praying for them. We even occasionally get BRAVE and invite our neighbours to a special service at church or hand a tract to some stranger on the street.

But.

Many of us don’t know how to handle people who seem different. Somehow, it’s okay to be in a wheel chair, to have Down Syndrome, to fight cancer, to need glasses and hearing aids; yet it’s not okay to just not “get it” socially. Somehow it’s easier to express pity for the homeless than for those who miss the unwritten cues of relationships. Somehow we think that social smarts should just be innately in people, even though we’ve long accepted that academic smarts aren’t everyone’s thing.

What are we going to do about it? I’ve got to admit that I am tempted to and sometimes do steer around the person who stutters or the one who talks endlessly about themselves or the one who hardly talks at all. Given the choice, I’d rather meet a good friend for coffee than take out the misfit in my youth group. Somehow it’s easy to conveniently miss these people, especially since they rarely include themselves.

Seems like even the Bible is silent about social skills and what to do with those who are missing them. Perhaps, we need to read between the lines.

Consider the story of Zacchaeus. Ever wonder why he became a tax collector? It wouldn’t take much imagination to guess that growing up he was bullied for his diminutive height. We all know that old adage that hurt people hurt people. When we meet Zacchaeus, he is alone in a tree, not exactly a high relationship status. Maybe he had tried to buy friends, but I can’t imagine that he had any real ones.

Until Jesus.

But you and I aren’t God.

I don’t exactly know how we are supposed to love those who struggle socially, but I’ll share a few ideas.

  1. Start by recognizing that social skills are given by God, but they are not given to all in equal measure.
  2. Also recognize that most accepted social norms are actually not morally right or wrong.
  3. When you find yourself growing impatient with or avoiding someone who struggles socially, ask yourself, “Why?” Too often, in my own heart, I see fear and selfishness. “If I take time for this person, I’ll miss out on what the cool ones are doing. What if they will always want to hang out if I show them any attention?”
  4. Communicate clearly. When someone joins your circle mid-conversation, don’t assume that they’ll be able to pick up on what you are talking about. Give them a summary of the conversation so that they will feel included.
  5. Defend the defenseless. Just because someone isn’t socially adept enough to know they are being mocked doesn’t make it right. Step in and stand up for them.
  6. Take interest in those who struggle socially and find out what they care about.
  7. Surround yourself with accepting friends. If your friends respect all kinds of people, you can expect them to be accepting of your own quirks, too.
  8. If you find someone who struggles socially trusting you as a friend, there may be opportunities to tactfully and graciously give them social tips and guide them in skills such as: reading people, manners, etc.
  9. Pray for healing. There are as many miracles as needs. (I am not sure if I have the faith to believe that, but I’m trying.)
  10. Remember that different is beautiful. There are unique things to love about each person.

I love you Church, and I love our Jesus Who will give us the grace to do the right thing, one interaction at a time.

Sincerely, 
Yolanda

2 Comments on “Dear Church

  1. Reblogged this on Flatlander Faith and commented:
    Beautifully said. We are missing great opportunities to serve our Saviour if we expect all potential converts will come to us neatly packaged, gift-wrapped and ready to fit smoothly into our social structure.

    Liked by 1 person

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