God’s Gift to Us
The promises and reality of God’s accompaniment in our journeys is abundant. We are assured he is our shepherd and we are the sheep of his pasture. He tells us he will never leave us, that he is always present. We become familiar with his voice that we may follow him. He calls us each by name. We are indwelt with the Spirit who spreads abroad in our hearts the love of the Father.
God surely accompanies us in every way, every experience, every season.
Our Gift to Others
Each of us yearn for companions in this life. We long for those who know us well, to the point of understanding us beyond words. One of the greatest gifts is to have friends to share a sense of history with. It is with those friendships that we have the same stories we tell and laugh about when we are together year after year.
In our shepherd work there is certainly a place for programs and events. When we offer a training on interpersonal skills or spiritual renewal, those are oft needed resources. These types of events can be an important aspect of the care we extend to others.
Beyond that, there is the hope that each of us as caregivers will have small pockets of individuals and communities to whom we can be companions along the way. Accompaniment over many years even at long distances is a profound form of care that is lacking in many cross-cultural worker’s lives.
What might be some of the essential markers of accompaniment of others at a distance?
The Ministry of Accompaniment
Pursuit – be encouraged as a shepherd to be the pursuer of others. Drop them notes (yes, actual physical pieces of mail that one can find amidst the dust bunnies of their mailboxes), set up video calls, and most importantly, go to visit them regularly. In all these acts, take the initiative. Don’t wait to be asked, call them.
Listen and Watch – As we journey with people over time we get to know them well. Maintaining a watchful, listening posture is a profound gift we offer. Over the course of many months we might hear certain comments that seem off-the-cuff and insignificant at the time, but prove to be glimpses into their hearts and even the heart of God towards them. When I sit with others, I will often reflect back to them with a statement that might begin with: “I have noted in recent conversations a few comments you have made that cause me to wonder….” Or I might say, “As I have listened to your life I find this question taking shape within me toward you…..” These types of comments can give a sense of being watched over and deeply listened to in a caring way. What a gift to receive from others.
Reminders – As we plow through life it is easy to forget key conversations or life lessons. By developing history with others we can provide reminders of past times of God’s presence, instruction, and especially acts of love. I know I need these reminders in my life. I so often forget something the Lord showed me and when I am reminded I am invited back to that moment to further reflect upon it and embrace the truth into my life. Only a person who has journeyed with me over time is able to remind me of those past markers.
Who are your “flocks” – those people you provide long-term accompaniment to?
What is the posture you want to have with them? How has God been giving you eyes and ears to see and hear another’s life so that you may be present with them in individualized and meaningful ways?
Thank you, Scott, for the reminders and the encouragement. The reminders that He is always with us, and also that each one of us truly does long for companionship, whether voiced or not, whether one is ever ‘able’ or willing to express it or not. The encouragement that our meager abilities as caregivers can still be deeply impactful.
I often lament the fact that I simply cannot reach out to as many of His servants as I’d like to, or to do so over the long haul. Your expression of hope that each caregiver might have ‘small pockets of individuals and communities’ we can and will invest in, is both a reminder and an encouragement that we are but ‘dusty’ humans – limited physically, mentally, and emotionally – yet unlimited as to present and eternal spiritual influence, as we yield ourselves as vessels in His hands, being available to the ones and twos of God’s choosing.
Thank you for your words regarding pursuit and initiative also. If the Lord is leading, we must not be negligent (or prideful) in thinking “my voice or presence won’t make any difference.”
Experience reminds us how wonderfully Father warms our souls, when the one or the two respond to our ‘touches’, revealing that His life is flowing through ….
Thank you so much for your wonderful response. You bring to the fore many valuable realities. All of us caregivers will ever carry a sense of tension within us that we cannot respond to all the needs we come into contact with. Lament is a great word and response. I have found that our (my wife and my) identified flocks are not only wonderful people to invest in they are also a source of grace to us too. Having our “pasture” full gives us permission to say “no” to some of the other needs that come our way and point them towards other shepherds and resources. The grace is that we need not be need-driven but rather intentionally focused on those God entrusts to our care. Yet, the tensions remain.
It is interesting to me that as I age and become more self-aware over time, I have realize that I run out of emotional energy far sooner than spiritual energy as I engage others. That may be peculiar to my own journey. Again, I have been taught these limits are graces to be embraced. I usually learn my limits after I have passed the boundary point. Live and learn…..
Thank you for your warm response and be encouraged as you tend to many. SS
We were drawn into member care exactly with the view that it is all about accompaniment. Were surprised and, honestly, somewhat troubled to discover a prevailing view that member care is seminars and training, slot appointments and therapy. These things can be valuable, but thank you for the reminder/perspective that it is in relationship and time that people are most deeply met. In the journeying together we bring into “care” the presence and compassion of Jesus.
Scott, I continue to appreciate your various posts. Blessings! Jeri
Jeri, Once again thank you for the response. In this world of “member care” all types of care are needed, as you well know. Ideally it will be full orbed involving the training and the key appointments-type of care AND the long view of accompaniment with the attendant “professional” skills and perspectives that can provide as well – especially our own hearts. So glad you are encouraged today. May Christ overflow your accompaniment of others.
Scott, I was privileged to sit under two of your seminars in MN yesterday. I noted in my conference feedback that you were my favorite. I appreciate your journey of keeping your eyes on Jesus the Author and perfector of faith. The journey has been hard for you and your family, yet this does not define you! It was a breath of fresh air. Thank you
PS I was the one that suggested a sermon on suffering. And I forgot to tell you the above words.
Karin Great to see you at MC2. Thank you for the kind words and the tips on the sermons. Much appreciated. Blessings along your journey as you serve many.