I see people in LA pacing in an overcrowded ER hoping their name is called to be treated and receive a diagnosis, many in dire need of procedures. As sad and painful as it is to see people hurting in a hospital short-staffed, I’m encouraged by seeing them in the right place.
I see myself as an intern who graduated medical school, recovering from the flu myself, being asked to treat people who have injuries I’ve only studied, haven’t treated. People hurting are coming to me, wanting my insight. While I have the Truth to speak, experiences to draw from, prayer to offer, I myself am like them: one who’s susceptible to pain. I am no better than they are, but I have knowledge they haven’t asked to receive. Ergo, they come to me.
The hospital represents church in this picture, but places like the ER (urgent care, clinics) come in all forms, just like church. People are positioned and equipped to help others in their home, workplace, coffee shops…just as doctors are found in areas other than ER’s.
I’m a greeter for a church here in LA and after making eye contact and smiling at 900+ souls for nearly an hour, I often find myself pensive afterwards. I see the girl arrive realizing everyone looks like they’re in the green room for a Vogue photo shoot, instantly checking her appearance. I see the man dressed to the nines carrying emotional weight, thinking if he got a sincere compliment, his week would be made. I shake hands with businessmen who don’t look me in the eye because they’re busy searching for “who they know.” The bubbly, outgoing actors go “on” and try to be the life of the party, but all I see are open wounds needing to be flushed, and time for healing and rest. But, life in LA doesn’t offer time for rest – you hustle. If you stop, good luck paying rent, let alone feel like you’re making an imprint.
I’ve logged hundreds, dare I say thousands of hours sitting in coffee shops with new friends, listening to how dry their life is, encouraging them to believe the droplets of hope in their life are actually puddles of promises. After countless coffee dates and redeemed punch cards for free lattes, I’ve learned two lessons.
Ears before experience.
Before you share your experiences, listen.
Most hurting people, nay, most PEOPLE, want to be heard. During my dark seasons, the triggers for me were phrases along the lines of, “I know exactly how you feel,” and, “it will be okay.”
Internally I was thinking, “Okay but like, you don’t know exactly how I feel because I’m wired differently, this situation is different, and this isn’t about you.” Externally, I forced a smile and checked the time. When you prematurely respond with how your experience mirrors the person who’s talking, you may be adding salt to the wound. I’m not saying keep your experiences to yourself. Sharing is powerful, significant, life-giving. I’m encouraging you to listen wholeheartedly, put yourself in the shoes of the speaker, and secure the position of someone who’ll have their ear once your time to speak comes. You’ll (hopefully) secure this spot if you first show them they have your ear.
When you’re off the clock, someone else is on.
I ain’t anyone’s doctor. I ain’t yo momma, I ain’t yo savior, I ain’t yo pharmacist.
Over the past few years my emotional energy tank has hit empty. During a drive on the 101 last November, I prayed for God to give me energy for those pulling on me. He clearly spoke to my heart saying, “remove yourself from helping those who drain you. I have others I want to appoint to come alongside them, and your stubbornness is hindering My plan. There are people you feel graced to love, and surprised you aren’t drained because they are difficult. You feel grace because I’ve brought them to you. Pour into THEM. I’ve lifted the grace from those you are feeling drained with. Walk away.”
Ouch. After receiving such a heavenly spanking, I walked away. A few were understandably confused from my sudden unavailability, leaving me fighting feelings of guilt and abandoning. However, looking at where those people are TODAY blows my mind. God truly did have amazing, heart of gold people in mind to come along those who were personally challenging.
Disclosure: this is not a lesson I learned once. I’m continuously learning and being stretched to release burdens I naturally, sometimes unknowingly take on. Choosing not to take the girl out to lunch when I know she’s broke is a difficult decision, but, God may have a woman who wants to buy the girl groceries for the week. I just don’t know, but I need to let God be God and listen when He says “release to Me.”
We each have a unique role and specialty. Just as there are neurosurgeons, pediatricians and cardiologists, we each have a role in His place. Where I’m positioned to serve may be different than your position. My role isn’t to compare myself to you, but cheer you on, because we have the same goal: to love and direct people to recovery in the healthiest way possible.