Have you ever encountered a really gentle presence? Someone you can trust your heart with? A safe place where you might fall apart or celebrate deeply? The gift of being that for others is wildly understated in this rough-and-tumble, me-first culture full of noise and rush and ego. Burden-bearing is precious work. So on behalf of everyone who benefits from your welcoming eye contact, your engaged leaning in, your thoughtful questions, and your Christlike softness, thank you. (And, hey, if you honestly feel ten miles from this description, the new mercies each morning can extend even here. It’s a new day—how exciting to begin an adventure in quiet!)
I just returned from a coaching intensive and have brought back tons of helps tucked into my heart. Here are three of my favorites that any good listener can use in pretty much any setting to be a soft space:
1. Breath prayers. This is a fairly new concept for me, but I love it. The basic idea is to create (or collect) short prayers that you can think in the time it takes to inhale and exhale to help you focus on truth in hard moments. Some of the ones I especially liked: “Spirit, let me be willing to work at Your pace;” “Father, help me not trust my ability, fear my inability, or posture in the gap;” “Abba, I belong to You;” “God, make me a non-anxious presence;” “Thank You that I have nothing to prove, nothing to hide, nothing to fear.” Quick ways to latch onto the true Power in any volatile (or mundane) situation can be a lifeline to sanity.
2. Question collections. I’ve always had an inquisitive mind. Just like Dustin from Stranger Things, I don’t like it when my curiosity door is kept locked. The training included time delving into different ways to draw out information that can help a heart recognize what’s beneath the surface. (And I had no idea how many “yes” or “no” questions I use, which naturally close communication rather than opening it up.) We were challenged to curate ongoing lists of really good questions. Interestingly, this idea was affirmed a few hours later by the unrelated book I’m reading, Introverts in the Church: “The best leaders ask the best questions.”*
3. View of rest. While we covered a bunch of great training material over the weekend, this last thing was gleaned from a side conversation. One of the girls half-joked to me that her main hobby is napping, and we quickly moved into the necessary role of real rest. She said, “Every time I lay down to go to sleep at night, I’m fighting against my need for control. Think about it: you have zero say in what happens while you sleep. You don’t even make the choice to keep breathing. It’s a constant reminder of how God is capable of taking care of me as I release my grasp on life in this daily rhythm.” I will never think of going to sleep the same way. What a sweet perspective on something I used to see as such a boring part of my routine!
Even though the last few days were geared toward church planting wives, I feel like positioning the heart toward truth, asking thoughtful questions, and injecting deep rest and reliance on the Lord can change the dynamic of almost any conversation you find yourself in. Let’s move out into the world as kind friends who listen well and offer a soft space to land for a while.
*I’ve started my own question collection since returning from the weekend away. Want some examples? “Where are you behaving like the Lord is powerless to help?” “How do you think God views you?” “What do you really want?” “How has Jesus walked this path, and how can I follow His ruts in the road?” “What agenda am I bent toward in my conversations?” I have lofty plans for journaling through these (and hundreds more) and using them to connect more deeply in my interactions with others.