I find that I'm not that unlike Jesus. I have no patience for people, but endless tenderness with persons. I would much rather speak to the heart of a man than speak to the culture of men. It's simply a more worthwhile exercise.
As an undergraduate, I began my studies in psychology (which is oh so close and yet, so far, from the actual call on my life) but when life turned a new direction and I landed at a new school to finish up my Bachelor's, I didn't hesitate to turn my back on psychology altogether and go into a new field. Why? Because at the new school, a quick perusal of course descriptions revealed that all of their psychology courses were theory-based. I would spend my time learning Jung and Maslow and Freud instead of James, Maggie, and Fred. I don't have any patience for it.
Theory never does a man any good. There's no practical use for it.
I have been on both the giving and the receiving end of intimate moments, powerful personal encounters that have the ability to touch the raw places in a man's heart. And it's never crossed my mind as a giver in these moments that so-and-so perfectly fits Freud's theory of ego or that she's falling in this frame of Maslow's hierarchy. I could, I suppose, go back and construct a rationale for believing such a thing after the fact, but in the moment...what use is that? People don't want to be boiled down to theories.
And as a receiver? It would never bring an ounce of comfort to learn that someone in a laboratory once drew up an idea concerning my life, a life they had never lived and never known and couldn't possibly know, and that I am perfectly "normal" according to some theory or belief.
When it comes to people, theory is a waste; there is only the moment, and we have to be ready to speak into it.
That's what strikes me about so many among us. They say, "I don't know what to say to a person. I don't understand how the mind works." But life is not about the mind; it's about the heart. You have one, don't you? Then use it. The human heart is not a matter best left to the "professionals," those with training in the theory and the practice. It is best left to the "personals," those who are willing to come into a sacred space and be present.
I love this about chaplaincy. It's a deeply personal work. It's showing up in space after space, taking a hand, touching a heart, being real with someone. I don't have any grand theories when I walk into a room. I don't let the broader context take over when a story starts to unfold. Why? Because the story is not the broader context. It's always intimate. It's always personal.
So must I be. So must we all be.
There are persons among us who thrive on the people. Who do good work for the broader culture. Who look at the big picture and see the grand things and set themselves to work on those things. We might still call them politicians, though this does not necessarily mean they must work in politics. There are some pastors I know who are great at this. They can create a culture in the church that... they are just really good at this.
I'm not one of those persons. And I don't want to be. It is not who God created in me.
I say all of this for a few reasons. First, to encourage those of you who feel like you don't know what to do with people. What to do for people. Sometimes, we get stuck in thinking whatever we do for God, we have to do for His people. All of them. But Jesus, and perhaps my personal reflection in some way, show us that it's not always about what we do for people, but what we do for a person. You can do something for a person, right? Any person at all! Do it. It is holy work.
Second, to thank those of you who are the politicians, who are the people persons among us. You create a culture in which we can be people of God. You create a place for the people of God and a way for all of us persons to be people. That's incredible, invaluable work. Thank you for giving your talents.
And third, and perhaps most importantly, I want to issue a reminder to all of us not to get lost in what seem like the bigger things. Not to put labels on everything or throw things into groups. Life, experience, these are highly personal; they were meant to be. Most of what you encounter in your world isn't going to fit a mold. That's okay. The mold is a myth. You are one of a kind, an original. Embrace it. Tell your story.
We are a people made of persons. It is in telling our stories, and telling them together, and holding them sacred that we are the people of God.