Bonhoeffer, a German Lutheran Theologian, had this image that he loved to use. The image was one of a place-sharer (stellvertreter). A place share for him was the following: one person must stand in the place of the other. Place-sharing can and does take place when we are willing to place ourselves fully in the reality of the other. WE MUST refuse to turn away even in the worst of the horrors. We "share" the space of living with them. Unfortunately, I do not see much of this occurring today.
I am reading a very interesting book about relationships. The intruiquing thing to me about the book is that in one hand I am reading this book and the other hand I am looking at our community and seeing how we can build networks (relationships) and make a difference. The difference isn't to "change" their lives (inside - make them one of us) but it is to end poverty, welfare and unemployment. So, here are some words that smack me on the side of the head.
Relationships aren't about making things better, they are about being together in each other's most difficult moments. Now that is love. Why is it that we always want to make things better for others ? Why is it that we want to "build relationships" so we can speak truths into someone's life so they will make better choices (change this habit or that habit) ?
In youth ministry, I see this all the time. It is done in love, but it is wrong (I think). We build relationships to "earn trust" and then we believe we can influence their lives. When we influence their lives, we can "manipulate" what they do / don't do and / or we can get them to believe this or know that .....
Andrew Root says in beautifully when he is referring to the incarnational youth ministry. He states: I was more concerned with their decisions, behavior or commitment than with their broken humanity that desired someone to share in their deepest sufferings through relationships. When I tried to influence them, I had neither the patience nor the vision to truly share in their suffering, to make it my own and to joing my own broken humanity with theirs. I was so busy making assertions about heaven that I refused to see and accompany them in the darkness of their personal hell's.
God, please allow my eyes to be open. Let me be "incarnate" with individuals. Give me the encouragement and the strength to walk with them in their brokeness. Allow me to open up with them and allow us to journey together. Please let me allow it be about accompaniment and not about influence. Daddy, this is a big step. I want to be with people and share life with people. Also, please let me be reminded of all the structual issues that are in place that cause the brokeness and do not fall into the trap that says, "being a friend will fix all the problems" Shine through me. Amen.
To my friends out there, if you need me to walk with you, be there with you and live life with you; please let me know.
There is going to be more on relationships, youth ministry, Bonhoeffer, incarnate living and figuring out life. There are numerous books, readings, life and conversations that are so intertwined ... I am looking forward to the journey.