Monday, May 09, 2005

The gift of ourself...

Mother Theresa once said, "Do not look for spectacular works. What is important is the giving of ourselves". Charles Ringma gives further understanding by suggesting that "in serving others the greatest blessing we can bring is often not the giving of things, but the gift of ourselves."

He suggests that of course the poor need food, of course they need shelter etc… but, they are also people who need to be loved and known, they are people who need our interest and friendship, not simply our giving. Journeying with others through highs and lows of their daily realities is the great gift we can give. Journeying with others - rather than thinking a handout is sufficient - has important incarnational implications, it creates a sense of presence.

I’m being a bit tough on someone at the moment. A 50 something woman who has known nothing but brutal hard work throughout her life. As I type I can see her toothless smile, her wistful looks out of the side of her eyes, her lank featureless grey hair constantly pushed out of her eyes with the back of her hands a la Penelope Pitstop! I guess you could say she has a slightly amusing crush on me. Amusing... but I’m wary. She’s staying away from church until I call. She likes it when I call to ask how she is. She’s worked out stay away and - like Pavlov’s dogs - I call. Countless others have checked up on her but she’s waiting for me. But this time I won’t be manipulated.

She is crying out to be loved and known. She is crying out for interest and friendship. I’ll do that but within careful boundaries. Here is the beginning of some thoughts for me. With those careful boundaries do we dilute the concept of grace within our giving of ourselves? Are the incarnational implications affected? That sense of presence - does it remain authentic?

Mother Theresa and Charles Ringma had me nodding in agreement when I read what they had to say – but sometimes it is difficult!


Listeningear said...


I think the setting of boundaries in our ministry is one of the hardest things we can do because we feel guilty about it. We recently had to set some tough boundaries around a man who wanted my husbands attention almost 24/7 which obviously is impossible, the more time he gave the more time he wanted... He has done some awful things to try and make us feel guilty for the boundary setting, but it is something we have to do at times. Your lady will come around eventually when she realises that her ploy wont work (maybe she wont) but we cannot afford to be playing games with people when there are so many people who need our love and care.

Some people unfortunately abuse the love and care we offer and try and manipulate us - so we have to set boundaries that care for us all, including ourselves.

God Bless

Kathryn said...

If wise ministry involves boundaries, I guess I'm something like the range where the deer and the antelope play...I have so struggled with this one, with wanting and trying to be totally available...and of course I can't do it, and then I get upset and stressed and people can feel let down and...and...
So you definitely have my prayers on this one and (look carefully and you might see my tongue slip into my cheek) if you want to talk about it, I'm here, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week...Or not. Maybe I'm learning :-)

Sister said...

Loving her with the love of Christ here means protecting the boundary - that is how you love her, you love her by protecting the appropriate distance between you, because she needs that more than she needs you to listen. To put this reverence for appropriate relationship in second place to her need to address her inner anguish is surely to misunderstand how love is to be shown?

It makes me smile though, I lived for twenty years in a Jewish world so strict that any conversation between a man and a woman (other than his close relative) beyond the utter essentials was forbidden. I barely had a conversation with a man in two decades. Coming into the church was an extraordinary shock - such familiarity! Such risks! It was lovely to be able to relate to men as normal human beings again, - and I even get the occasional hug, lol - but it helps a great deal to think clearly about what is advisable and what is not. I somehow miss the volumes on 'yihud', spelling out under exactly what circumstances, for example, I was permitted to accept a lift home from a man. Was it daylight? Was the route entirely through familiar neighbourhood? Was his wife in town and also my husband if I had one? Was I in the back seat or the front? etc etc
I have been utterly shocked by how easily people around me in the church are getting into situations where they lay themselves open to temptation. The law doesn't 'work' - hence I returned to Christ, but it sure helps to keep people out of trouble.

Gordon said...

all really helpful in moving my thoughts along. thanks