In the second week of April, I attended a leadership training conference (LTC) for Stephen Ministry, along with one other member of our pastoral council. The 50 hour training that we completed has formed us to train other parishioners who can provide one-to- one quality Christian care for anyone in our parish. As Stephen Ministry leaders,we will spending some time over the summer to plan a schedule for Stephen Minister training in our parish.
My experience at Stephen Ministry Leadership Training was life-changing. I discovered that sometimes, it isn’t necessary to work so hard or worry so much about results. Sometimes, all that’s necessary is to be present. In ministry, in family and among my friends, my relationships are an opportunity to reveal God’s love in a relevant human context. I don’t have to solve problems, give advice, or use a lot of fancy words. In every human encounter, I simply need to step aside and make room for Christ.
I immediately started to apply some of the skills that I learned at training, and the difference that it has made in my relationships is miraculous.
When I started my new position last year, I was resolved to put my ego aside. I stopped worrying about professional validation. I committed myself to do everything in ministry with love. On my first date-of-hire anniversary, I was looking back on the year. I was grateful to acknowledge that I did not repeat any of the ego-driven mistakes that I made in previous employment situations. The skills that I learned in the LTC took the ego-free strategy to the next level. This process-oriented, Christ centered approach has brought me a sense of relief: it’s not about a goal. Its about every little encounter with Christ.
Over the last three weeks, I’ve stopped “putting work” into my relationships and let my heart move intuitively. Now, before I go to the office, go shopping or chat with a friend, I pray to God, “help me to be Christ and see Christ’s presence,” and then I allow Christ’s presence do the work for me.
The love I feel in my life right now is a new experience. I am more comfortable in my own being. I am more comfortable to love others. I am more comfortable with others loving me. I am a window for God’s living presence. By clearing the window of ego, fear, and selfish longings, my truest self is able to shine bright. By clearing the window, others are able to my truest self and truly love me.
Have you ever felt really frustrated? Maybe you want your teenager to study more and get better grades in school. Maybe lately, you are struggling to connect with your significant other. Maybe you feel guilty because you want to spend more time with your elderly parents, but your own children and grandchildren also need your help.
Is it possible that you are simply working too hard on your relationships? Take a minute to stop, listen and be truly present for your son, your wife or your mom. Take a minute to be truly present to yourself. Listen to your own inmost thoughts. Are you exhausting yourself with emotional ‘work’ while you compensate for a mistake or an insecurity that you just don’t want to confront? For the next week, I encourage you to do one thing: just show up. Don’t bring anything and don’t try to fix anything. Be 100% you, 100% open and 100% ready for Christ to work through you.
The words that follow are inspired by Sunday’s Gospel. If you get a little nervous before showing up for the people you love, maybe these words will help you.
My God who loves me no matter what,
If I happen to get distracted by ego, pride or resentment,
and I fail to acknowledge you,
remind me that you and I know each other so well.
Remind me that we’re old friends.
Remind me that you have called me
to be a light in darkness, to pay it forward
and to remind other people
that you love them too— no matter what.
I want to share your abundant love with everyone I meet
and I am committed to make your love known.
Help me to be Christ and see Christ
as I empty myself
so that we, Christ’s body on earth, might be
living fully as One.
©2016 Elena V. Brandt. fontsound.org
An adapted form was printed in my parish bulletin on Sunday, May 8, 2016.