September 27, 2015


Anyone who gives you a cup of water to drink because you belong to Christ, amen, I say to you, will surely not lose his reward. – Mark 9: 41

   Love may be a many splendored thing, but in our close relationships we have the opportunity to express it in a very special way – by calling forth the other’s unique gifts. Psychologist Alan Guiness has put it this way:

   “One of the dangers of being a psychologist/reformer is that you are tempted to remake people in your own image. But God made each unique, & there is a vast mystery & beauty surrounding the human soul. Good psychologists are like good astronomers who spend their lives studying the stars to determine why certain stellar systems behave as they do & why black holes exist. And in the end they are even more in awe at the grandeur of it all…. If I can help my patients understand who God made them to be & help them to be that person, it is quite enough.”

   One of the things we see in the life of Jesus is that when He calls people to be His disciples, when He engages in intimate conversation with people, He doesn’t seem to be trying to put something into them. He doesn’t try to shape & mold them according to some preconceived notion of what they ought to be. Rather, He seems to be calling forth something that was already in them. Ever since, this has been the mark of a good spiritual director.

   How can we do this? First, by exercising our own unique gifts. By doing our own thing in the best sense of the word, we can inspire others to do theirs. The British philosopher David Hume was seen once leaving a church in which the sermon had just been preached by a man with whom he disagreed on many points of Philosophy & Theology. His spirits seemed so buoyed up that a friend said to him, “Surely you don’t believe what that man is preaching!” Hume replied, No, but he does!”

   Secondly, we must resist the temptation to control other people’s lives, constantly making demands or trying to manipulate them. Discipline in necessary, especially in the case of small children, but if we do not resist this temptation, the tendency of many is in the direction of too much control. The result is that we stifle rather than call forth their unique gifts. Example: When I was young, I wanted to learn the play the piano, but my parents, were opposed to it. Finally, after two years of bugging them, they consented, bought a piano, & sent me to a piano teacher for lessons after school. During that first year, I bought the music for, & painstakingly taught myself to play Rachmaninoff’s Piano Concerto No. 2 in C Major. At the end of my first year of lessons, there was a recital where the students could show what they had learned. When I asked my teacher if could play this piece, she was horrified & said, “You can’t play anything like that in this recital! You will play ‘Twinkle, twinkle little star’ or nothing at all!”  I was so incensed by this that my second year of lessons was a waste of time. I often wonder where my life might have led had I not been discouraged from ‘reaching for the stars,’ as it were. In the end, I found another excellent way of reaching for the stars.

   Thirdly, by recognizing & praising their gifts. All too often, we seem to have a need to cut each other down. There is the story of a four year old boy who was told by his mother he couldn’t be a policeman because he couldn’t run fast enough; he couldn’t be a paramedic because he couldn’t lift people, & he couldn’t run a store because he couldn’t count money. She ended her assessment of his inabilities by telling him not to despair: “Don’t worry. You can grow up to be just like your father.”

   When Jesus tells us to love one another, it means caring for the other person for his or her sake. It means giving ourselves to the person so that he/she is fulfilled & lifted up. One of the greatest gifts we can give another is the space to grow into the uniquely beautiful human beings God has made them to be.  AMEN!