How to Shine Your Light in Public Places

I take delight in hearing an individual share his or her story. When a person opens a window into his or her internal life, I feel privileged. I’m the type of person to turn my head while driving down the street when the curtains are pulled back in a window. I am also the type of person to incline my heart and my ear to a soul unveiled, a vulnerable, soft heart.

This week I had the privilege of hearing a woman’s story of caring for her father with Dementia while navigating systems and family issues. She told it during a staff training about emotional triggers. Before she opened up, I took note of how guarded she was. She is beautiful and guarded, hurting and reaching. Yet, I knew not the gravity of her circumstances before she opened up. I only saw a Black women whose facial expressions supported the fact that she is not the one. Note to reader: when a Black woman says she isn’t the one, trust her. When the word “ain’t” replaces “isn’t,” don’t try her.

She spoke.

I listened.

I was deeply inspired.

And the Lord set us up to be a blessing to one another in words and hugs.

But the following questions came to me: how should we respond to hurting people when we don’t hear the story? How do we permit life in suffocating situations?

Letting your light shine among spiritually-conscious churchgoers is rather easy. But we are called to be lights in the ruins, in desolate places.

Here are a few notes I gathered before hearing this woman’s – my sister’s – synopsis of her pain.

  1. Don’t say, “I know what going through” when you don’t. Just be quiet.
  2. Don’t touch people you do not know without their permission. You don’t know what their emotional triggers are. You may like hugs, like me. But they may not be in the space to receive them. Respect that.
  3. Let people feel what they are feeling so that they can come out on the other side. God’s will is not that anyone should perish (2 Peter 3:9). You trying to shield them from their processes does not make you God and is not of God. It makes you ignorant and presumptuous, also known as wrong. Trust me, I’ve been ignorant and presumptuous many times with good intentions.
  4. People who are angry may perceive your smile and kindness as unauthentic. Let them think what they will think and say what they say. Keep smiling. Keep being kind. When you know you and how far you’ve come, you don’t have time for pettiness.
  5. Let people join the conversation at their own pace. Celebrate their physical presence and pray for the Spirit to come upon them and open them up.
  6. Don’t rush into praying with someone after you hear a piece of what they’re going through. Prayer to God alone for them is so powerful. He will honor you in His guidance of you as you interact with them. You don’t want to overwhelm people.

Loving the loveable is easy. Jesus said even capitalists do that in Matthew 5:46. But to love people enough to wait for them to open up is godly love (John 9:35 – 38). While we were still sinners – without strength – Jesus died for us (Romans 5:8). Remember how weak you were when you embraced the Love that wouldn’t let you go. As you remember your weakness, extend yourself wisely to the ones whose stories you have not heard and permit life in suffocating circumstances.

Ask Her About Her Dreams: Sex Talk With Girls

As a youth developer, I see our youth being targeted left and right to become victims and/or perpetrators of reckless pleasure. Snap a selfie, while you’re at it! And many are willing to take the risk. They know that they only live once. The newsflash is that everyone does. Telling teenagers not to have sex because they will die could only accelerate their desire to at least have fun while doing it.

So what is a Spirit-led youth developer working with higher risk teenage girls supposed to do? Sing songs about Heaven and rejoice when I see the coming Messiah? Ignore the fact that kids are learning adult behaviors and their brains are not even fully developed to navigate the ramifications of their decision making? Should we all just pray they stop having sex lest they die? No. We need to talk to our kids and listen to what their thoughts are around having sex. Prevention calls for action in exigent times. Kids, like adults, are also looking for the real thing. So we need to be real and speak the truth in love (Ephesians 4:15).

I would give an example from my week to describe how this post came about. I thoroughly enjoy doing that. But I am not at liberty to give details. So, know that I got my insight from God while working. Here are few helpful notes I took while listening to the Spirit through my teenage teachers.

  1. Tell her you would go around the world twice just to make sure she’s okay because that is how significant she is to you.
  2. Open the conversation with something along the lines of, “I sense that your interests are changing.” In this case, I know that my girl’s interests are changing. I genuinely wanted to know what her thoughts are around losing her virginity.
  3. Describe plainly the mystery of sex and how it is God’s idea – not Man’s. I told this precious soul that humanity is looking for that fitting connection, like the male part inside the female part, because we were designed to fit within one another. Our perversion, however, has made sex our priority and has distorted the way we value one another and this act of God. (Yes, I take the risk of talking to kids about God at work.)
  4. Explain to her that she is a spiritual being having a human experience with spiritual desires. (Again, that connection piece!) This resonates deeper than religion. Add that she must be vigilant of what she is opening herself up to spiritually and physically. She needs to know that someone who is not interested in her mental, physical, emotional, and spiritual health long-term should not have power to disregard her after giving him (or her) access. I’m SO TIRED of young women being lied to and being left with a baby and/or a broken heart.
  5. Check her comprehensions of what you say after listening to her speak. Ask her clarification and substantive questions to ascertain her thought-life around having sex.
  6. Ask her what her dreams are. Be amazed. Encourage her. Celebrate her. Speak to her heart and ask for guidance as you do. When I asked my girl what her dreams are, she told me what I previously heard; but she added that she wanted to live a life with less regrets. The way she described not wanting to alter the trajectory of life unto living that dream was so articulate and captivating. It was also powerful too because I know her address. I told her with the same caution she wants to guard herself from having regrets is the same caution she must guard her mind, body and spirit. Some of us need a baby to slow us down from our careless, selfish, fast-paced lives. Others of us only require relational wounds. Nevertheless, those relational wounds keep us from reaching our highest heights.
  7. Assure her you are there to listen and answer questions. If you don’t show her better than you can tell her, she’ll find someone who will.

Sex talk can always be uncomfortable. But what is easy now is hard later.

Turn a life toward the light to see it at its brightest.