June 25, 2012 - Radical Hope

The question I have been asked about writing more than any other is, ‘how do you remember what happened five, ten or fifteen years ago?’

My answer is probably not what you would expect.

I know people who have photographic memories, but I do not. I know others who are experts at recall, I am not—unless you want to include movie scenes or episodes of Star Trek.

In the words of an elderly doctor I worked with for many years and for whom I hold a great deal of respect, “You have the ability to recall the most accurate details of trivial information that is of no import whatsoever.”

But there is something I do remember with passion—my life with Gwen. I will not say that I recall every word of every conversation we have ever had, word for word, but it’s close.

My goal in writing, however, is not necessarily to remember each word of dialogue—rather it is to make the reader see her expression, hear her laugh, and feel the touch of her hand.

If I can help people know her, they will love her and understand her life. And understanding who Gwen was explains why she was driven to help other women. It was her ministry, her call.

Gwen invested her time in the lives of countless women, some of whom I am still finding out about. She understood that each woman who’s life she touched was different, with different needs and circumstances than any other.

But her willingness to get involved and carry the message of hope and a plan of how to get there meant the world to those ladies. She offered encouragement and purpose to women overwhelmed by difficulties and stressors of life that could have destroyed the strongest of us.

Although situations varied, her approach always had common characteristics:

  • Meet the woman where she is.
    • I know this sounds pretty basic, but oftentimes we attempt to encourage someone in need to pull themselves up with their bootstraps—to abruptly alter their course in a “Godly” direction. Gwen felt the need to go to where they were, and start from there.
  • Do not choose sides.
    • If a husband, mother-in-law or anyone else was involved in conflict with the young woman she was helping, Gwen refused to choose sides. Doing so would change the focus from dealing with the conflict to removing the source. That may be helpful in the short-term, but not for the big picture. Instead she helped each girl deal their problems in a manner that would resolve the issue, instilling skills within her that she would use the next time conflict presented.
  • There is no substitute for investing time.
    • I have mentioned in the past that when we embark on missions to impoverished parts of the world, the most important thing to the people we see is that we came. This was also true of the girls Gwen helped. The fact that she showed up over and over and gave of herself made all the difference in the world to them. She would have had no impact if she hadn’t gone herself.
  • Learn the Word.
    • In order to be effective in counseling, we need to know what Scripture has to say on various issues, and recall where to find that information in the Bible. This comes from spending time studying the Word, otherwise we are just giving our opinions instead of leading them in the right direction.

If it’s your desire to make a difference in this world, find where God would have you invest your time and get busy. It may not be a glamorous or high-profile job, but if it’s where He is leading, there is no better place to be.

Gwen made a difference in the lives of countless women because God opened the door—and she walked through.

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