This year's Annual Meeting theme is "Live the Difference." We asked several individuals what it looks like to live the difference in their day-to-day lives. Here's what Katie Swafford, director of Counseling Services, had to say:
I'm browsing through Facebook this morning when I see the status update of a childhood friend. This friend is describing how she doesn't feel that people treat her as she deserves to be treated.
Makes a few comments about how she perceives herself to be a good person who is fun to be around, yet feels as if the world takes her for granted or just gives her an "ehh, maybe" rating. She proceeded to ask for honest, blunt comments.
I went to church camp with this friend - which doesn't by any indication mean that she is a believer. I know she was raised in a home with at least a God influence. However, life has tossed her about, relationships have let her down, and she probably feels that God has let her down. So she has opened her heart and mind to all sorts of other spiritual influences and thinking. But she obviously still feels empty.
I can't say that I haven't had days where I felt the same way - unappreciated, beaten down by life, treated unfairly, hurt, disappointed and the list could go on. But I have a relationship with God who is the Great I AM and even amidst the yucky feelings, He is unchanging. So if I remember who I am in Christ and trust what He has to say about me, I will receive a different description than the world gives me. Thankfully, a better and more solid description not based on my performance!
So how do you communicate this to a friend who is struggling and wandering in a spiritual desert? Some would say boldly present the Gospel. Some would be put off by her venting and not respond. Some would call her out for whining and basically tell her to get over it. I'll admit my first thought was to not respond, just watch the conversation from afar and see what happened. But the comments related to her inquiry were shallow or offered affirmation to counter the uncomfortable feelings she was experiencing. How could I as a believer let this Facebook conversation continue without interjecting some kind of truth?
I debated for several minutes, asked for God to give me the words to say, and finally typed a response to her question. Who and what are you allowing to define you? I asked. What gives you a sense of identity? She knows all the "church" answers so telling her to trust God or pray would not have pierced her heart and giving her the answer won't get her into heaven. So instead, I chose to live the difference by asking her a question that would stir her. (Tweet this.) I chose not to sit by and watch others give her advice or worldly philosophy when I clearly see the issue is a matter of her heart knowing and trusting in truth.
I have no idea how she will respond, if she does at all. She may "defriend" me. She could chalk me up as a fanatic or crazy person. I'm trusting that the God who prompted me to respond will stir her heart to seek the Truth that she knew of before life's hurts and disappointments jaded her.