Besides practicing self-awareness and the ministry of presence by listening attentively to others in order to minister them regardless of our broken identity, we can put ourselves in their position and at their service. If you apply these two aspects, you will be able to reach a level of empathy and service that will reflect Jesus’ love and ministry. People around you will be able to know Him through you as a pastor and will be able to find in Him the refuge they need.
How can you accomplish this? Below, you will find two recommendations that will help you in your ministry.
I feel what you feel
When you give the gift of your presence to those who suffer, you are practicing empathy. You feel what they feel, you put yourself in their shoes, you give them a friendly space, where they can feel free to come and go, be as near and far as they need to be, to rest and play, talk and be silent, eat and fast without being criticized and judged.
In fact, the paradox is that practicing empathy requires the creation of an empty space, where people who are hurting can find their own human pain. The ministry of presence through empathy removes the delusion that you are superior to the one who is right next to you and that you have the power to heal it. Your presence is healing through empathy because it not just removes loneliness and pain from others but invites them to acknowledge their loneliness on a level where it can be shared with others who suffer like you.
Pastors are not doctors whose main job is to relieve pain. Rather, they deepen the pain to a level where it can be shared. When people turn to pastors with their problems, they can only hope for their pain to be understood and felt, in a way that they no longer have to run away from it, but can accept it as an expression of their humanity.
When a wife suffers the loss of her husband, we are not asked to comfort her by telling her that God knows what is doing. We are challenged to help her realize that her husband’s death reveals his human condition, the same human condition that the pastor has and that others share with her. When we acknowledge our pain and humanity we begin to heal because we see our hope in Jesus, and this brings a new vision.
I want to serve you
When you practice the ministry of presence, you are saying to those who suffer “I want to serve you”. You become Jesus’ hands, feet, and eyes. He was there to serve, and to provide help and compassion for those in need. You do not need to do great things to let yourself be used by Jesus.
Your presence is the best gift you can give when you have a broken identity.
The gift of your presence allows people with mental illnesses to feel safe and welcome. This is where you provide a safe space, without prejudice or anxiety, that leads to community. In this space, grace abounds. Grace is acceptance without prejudice.
Those pastors who extend the ministry of presence also take advantage so they can also receive grace in this symbiotic relationship. Grace nurtures the relationships, unites open and vulnerable people. This may be a new concept for some of us. However, putting judgment aside is to welcome people with grace. This is where the gospel of Christ comes to life and transforms lives.
Can you imagine if today you get up and start giving your presence to care for the wounds that a broken identity produces?
Can you imagine the impact you will have on your family if you give them your presence? They will stop seeing you as a hypocritical person who is one way outside, on the street, and another inside, at home.
Can you imagine what would happen if you really gave your presence and made yourself vulnerable by accepting the reality that you have as many wounds as those who are around you?
Can you imagine the change that would happen in your life if you stop projecting your limitations onto other people and look at yourself and accept the wounds you have?
God is not looking for a perfect Pastor, without problems, wounds and traumas. God wants you to be a pastor who recognizes his limitations, his wounds, and sets his mind on healing and helping others heal their wounds. Your presence is more powerful than you imagine.
God sends you so that regardless your maybe broken identity, your presence can bring hope to those who are suffering just like you are.
People need to find that refuge and peace that only God can give. They need to know God’s love, to feel that support and comfort that as God’s ministers we can give them.
It is not easy to face the vicissitudes of the current world without Jesus’ guidance in our lives. His ministry was one of love, perfect, sublime. We as pastors, can learn how to face our own vicissitudes, our own broken identities, so that we can give others the support they desperately need in this troubled world.
Do you know any other way through which we can deal with a broken identity? Do you feel that these recommendations are difficult to apply? Please, share your experience with us in the comments section. God bless you.
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