With all the ways we can communicate these days, there still is no substitute for being together. There is nothing so powerful to touch our hearts and really know a person than to be in that person’s presence, to look into their eyes, to hear their heart’s cry. And don’t we long to tell our own story to people who want to hear it? It is actual time with real people that will change our hearts. And when our hearts change, so will our minds, and so will our attitudes toward one another – Lord, may it be so!
I really believe what I just wrote. I have experienced it. I’ve watched others come into real healing through the powerful presence of a true friend. Let me try to support my conviction through a couple of stories from authors I respect, and a passage from Scripture to which I am committed.
In her newest book, Billionaire at the Barricades, a history of the populist movement, Laura Ingraham tells a story about how Ronald Reagan’s heart was turned toward the American people. Ingraham writes:
“During 1954 to 1962, Ronald Reagan “traveled the country as a spokesman for General Electric. In addition to hosting the TV show, General Electric Theater, Reagans’ duties as the company’s ‘goodwill ambassador’ meant he traveled to over 135 GE factories to meet with and speak to over 250,000 workers in 38 states. The experience changed him forever.
Reagan recalled: “When I went on those tours and shook hands with all those people, I began to see that they were very different people than the people Hollywood was talking about. I was seeing the same people that I grew up with in Dixon, Illinois. I realized I was living in a tinsel factory. And this exposure brought me back.”
Brought back to the presence of real people, Reagan caught a vision and came onto the political field of his time with convictions born out of hearing from the people. Whether you agree with his policies or not, a person would be hard pressed to find anywhere in his writings a deviation from his focus on a government for the people. Their presence, their stories grounded him.
In his book, The Wounded Healer, Henri Nouwen retells a story told to him by a priest who served in a small village in the jungles of a war-torn eastern country. One night a fugitive came rushing into their village seeking refuge and the priest arranged for him to stay with one of the villagers. Not too long after this, the soldiers came charging in after him, knowing that he must be hiding there. The priest would not tell them where he was. They left with a warning: “We will be back, and if you do not give up the fugitive, we will kill everyone in the village.” The priest was deeply distressed and turned to his Bible for guidance. His eyes landed on the scripture where the Jewish high priest, Caiphas, is addressing the assembly and tells them, ‘You do not realize that it is better for you that one man die for the people than that the whole nation perish.’ (John 11:50) Taking this verse as his direction, the priest turned the fugitive over to the guerillas when they returned.
But the priest slept fitfully that night, and had a troubling dream in which the Lord Jesus appeared to him in the fugitive’s clothing, saying something like, “Why did you betray me? Why did you give me over to the enemy?” In his dream, the priest cried out to the Lord, “How could I have known it was You, Lord?” And the Lord replied, “If you had looked into the eyes of the fugitive, you would have known.”
In our divided world, I believe that one important antidote is for people to purpose to guard against all that pulls us apart, to gather together, to really listen to one another, to pray together, to “forsake not the assembling together.” “Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful. And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another and all the more as you see the Day approaching.” (Hebrews 10: 23-25).
Mary is one of the founders of Where Grace Abounds and served as Executive Director from its inception on July, 1986 through March 31st, 2007. She speaks and teaches at churches and conferences across the country. She has also served on several boards of non-profit organizations, is a conference speaker on a variety of topics that include: Intimacy with God, Healthy Sexuality, and leadership development. She currently serves in leadership in her denomination. Mary’s favorite ministry roles are discipleship counseling, group facilitation, and leadership development.
Mary often characterizes herself as “a seeker of Truth” and has a long-standing fascination with human behavior and motiviation. Her education consists of lay and discipleship counseling, indepentent study about the integration of psychology and theology, counseling and human sexuality. She also holds a BS in Human Services and an MA in Psychology from Regis University.
Mary attends a Friends (Quaker) Church.
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