During one of the convention speeches last week I started channel surfing and caught part of one of the survival programs I enjoy. I never remember the name of the guy, but he’s put out in some wilderness area and has to survive as he finds his way back to civilization. Yes, the program has to be rigged for video recording, but still I enjoy it, especially the problem solving skills used as he tries to provide for the basics of survival.
And what are those basics? Water, shelter, food and fire - that’s what I surmise, although a survivalist may add more or rearrange the list. What the program emphasizes is that if you don’t provide for the basics, the body becomes too taxed and soon the mind cannot reason correctly and you can’t respond adequately to threats.
A couple of times this week I have been with friends and church members who have gotten horrible news - information that has dropped them down right smack in the middle of a different kind of wilderness. Life cannot go on as it did, and emotionally, they are thrust into providing for the basics of survival.
And what are those basics? Well, again, here are my suggestions. What are the emotional needs that have to be attended to before reasoning begins to falter?
SECURITY. We need assurance that we and our loved ones are safe. We need a non-anxious presence that sends a beacon of calm through the fog. We need someone in whom we can trust.
ACCEPTANCE. We need assurance that we are accepted just as we are with all our brokenness, wounds, inadequacy, sin, inability, and imperfection. We need release from the fear of shame and rejection. We need someone to welcome and acknowledge us.
AFFECTION. We need to know that we are liked and that our presence is desired. We need evidence that attention will be given to our needs. We need know there is someone to care for us.
COMPASSION. We need to experience empathy from others and we need to be moved to empathy for others. Compassion acknowledges our interdependence in sadness, joy, anxiety, and laughter. We need someone with whom to share.
I’m sure you noticed that I didn’t list “love.” That word just means too many different things to people. And I feel confident that if you experience security, acceptance, affection and compassion, you’ve experienced love. What would you add to the list?
Stepping into a crisis moment as a pastor, I would love to “fix” things – make it all right for everyone. Impossible. But I can by my presence remind others of the one in whom we trust. I can demonstrate acceptance and affection. And I can give and receive compassion. With those emotional basics in place, reasoning will not become scrambled, and those in the wilderness can find their way back.
I wonder if we could gauge the effectiveness of congregations in a similar way?