I had coffee (well, tea, actually) with a friend from church last week. He had asked if I could meet with him, and we were able to connect up after work one evening. I honestly had no indication of what he wanted to discuss, and so I went into the coffee house with a sense of curiosity. We had a few minutes of more or less unrelated conversation while our drinks cooled, and then he hit me with the reason he wanted to talk.
He was concerned that, in this process of preparing to go to Ireland, that other brothers and sisters from church were only sharing positive feedback, and perhaps I wasn’t considering or following up on any contrary thoughts. In essence, he wanted to make sure that I was thinking about the negative aspects of going. I must admit, he had given it a great deal of thought, and he listed a number of very well-reasoned points – everything from finances to education for the kids to the ways God is and will continue to be using us here in the Bay Area. I could tell that he was somewhat apprehensive about sharing what we might consider to be negative feedback. At the same time, he felt convinced that he needed to share this feedback with me, the sooner the better.
Newsflash: I’m glad he shared!
Now, I’m not only saying this because I’m by nature a pretty realistic person. I must admit, nearly every point he brought up was something I’ve already thought about. Chalk it up to being a logistics-minded person – we tend to see all the obstacles. Contrast that with my beautiful wife, who sees all the joy and adventure up front. We work well together, Dorine and I.
No, I’m glad he shared because he did it out of love and concern. I would rather someone come to me with concerns and warnings they think I need to hear than smiles and congrats they think I want to hear. For one thing, I want to make sure I know as much as I can going into it. The more questions people ask and concerns they share, the more I can learn. But more importantly, this calling is not about me. If I get my pride hurt by someone poking holes in my ideas, then I’m clearly not going for the right reasons. And, if I’m harboring wrong motives for serving, I need that to be brought to the surface as well.
I am reminded of this exhortation from Proverbs 27:6, quoted here from the NIV:
Wounds from a friend can be trusted, but an enemy multiplies kisses.
So I lay this challenge to my friends, my family, my brothers and sisters in Christ. Will you care enough about my family and me to say the hard things? Will you brave the discomfort of a difficult conversation? Will you speak the truth in love?
I’ll do the same for you!
Ephesians 4:15 (NIV):
Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will grow to become in every respect the mature body of him who is the head, that is, Christ.