Many years ago, as a rookie pastor, I was caring for a young man who was struggling with bipolar disorder. He had lost his confidence following some severe manic episodes. While we enjoyed our regular catch ups, I felt that he was “stuck”. There was a lot of introspection and reflection but not much movement towards flourishing. Things changed when we started to look for opportunities to serve others together.
Despite his low spirit, I could see key strengths in him and I noticed his creativity and that he enjoyed playing guitar. Our church ran a weekly community lunch where locals could enjoy an inexpensive two course meal. So we worked together on playing a set of crowd-pleasing songs to perform at this event. Once we had this shared project to do that was blessing others, alongside my mentoring, this young man started to recognise that he had lots to give and from there he grew and flourished.
I share this story to highlight the healing power of serving others. When a person needs care, there is often a turning inwards as they grieve, reflect and come to terms with what is happening. This is a normal response. But sometimes people get stuck in this inward turn and struggle to move forward. The dangers of turning inward express themselves as self pity, retreat from social connections and family commitments, loss of social confidence, and aligning ourselves too strongly with our problems. “I failed” becomes “I am a failure”.
As carers, we often assume that caring involves sitting with the person and talking directly about the problems being faced. But when a person is feeling the weight of their own personal challenges, sometimes inviting them to share in a serving opportunity allows them to look beyond that weight of challenge. While not always appropriate, this approach can be incredibly empowering, reminding the person to see themselves as capable of serving.
Another recent example of this approach involves a Crossway member who is on my shower truck team. He has been supporting a neighbour who is caring for his wife with advanced dementia. While caring for his wife he is also facing his own grief and isolation. So the Crossway member invited that neighbour to join our shower truck team, which has been a special experience for him. Helping others who are experiencing homelessness has been a completely new and surprisingly refreshing space for him. He now finds himself in a supportive team that knows his situation, listening and caring for him week to week.
If you are supporting someone and are concerned that their inward turn needs balancing out, I encourage you to consider inviting them to do something that serves others.
Community & Engagement Team Leader