As some of you may know, our family recently made the transition from living in Waukesha, Wisconsin to Appleton, Wisconsin (about a two-hour drive north). On top of that, I still don’t have a job up in Appleton, so I continue to work down here in Waukesha while my family lives up in Appleton. I split my time and sleep Monday, Tuesday, and Thursday nights with my parents down here in Waukesha and Wednesday nights and the weekend I am back up in Appleton. This has given me a lot of time to reflect on how one stays faithful to discipling in the transitions and over distances. It is not nearly as effective as actually being there (obviously) but I wanted to share some of what I have been learning about serving others and being an effective disciple-maker during transitions.
Technology is Your Friend – Keep the Communication Lines Open
We live in an insanely privileged time. Cell phones and the internet have made communication among people instant and global. While we should be cautious in how embrace and consume said technology, it is a huge blessings to be able to stay in touch. The nice thing is that we can continue relationships of distance with very few differences. Use your phone and email to stay in touch and keep in communication about everyday life, your struggles, your prayers, and your ups and downs. Usually when we are close to people, most of our texting, emailing and calling is all strictly important stuff that needs to be taken care of. Take those risks with people you love and text them something incredibly stupid and just let them know you are thinking about them. Communicate your prayer needs through email or ask how you can pray for them. Setup a Google Hangout to just be able to see them and see what is going on in their daily lives. Ask them and invite them to stay in touch with you and do the same things you are doing.
An important note to all of this, make sure you actually RESPOND if people text you or email you. It is almost criminal how long I can take to get back to someone via email or text. If someone is making an effort to get in touch with you, the least you can do is actually respond. Remember Jesus’ words about the Golden Rule, “Just as you want others to do for you, do the same for them,” (Luke 6:31 HCSB). It’s always disappointing to put yourself out there and not hear back and the feeling can stink, so think your heart and text them back, even if it’s a short, “Thank you.”
Send Them Small Reminders or Blessings
So far, I have only got a chance to practice this by blessing my wife in small ways since we are apart. However, some people are gift people and are blessed by receiving something that shows you were thinking about them (my wife is definitely one of those people). It doesn’t have to be anything big or expensive; it can be as simple as a refrigerator magnet or a keychain. It might be a useless trinket, but it’s not that way to the person receiving it.
James says in the book of James, “If a brother or sister is without clothes and lacks daily food and one of you says to them, ‘Go in peace, keep warm, and eat well,’ but you don’t give them what the body needs, what good is it?” (James 2:14-16 HCSB). I might be vamping a bit on what he says, but some people don’t need your kind words, they literally need you to show them (through some physical provision) that you care for them. I’m not saying this passage means you have an obligation to give a small gift to someone, but I think we can take the idea that some people don’t see our passing words of blessing as a real blessing but need to have a tangible form of what our heart feels for them.
Remember Them Often In Your Prayers
This is the most important one, in my opinion, and where I need the most work. The Apostle Paul greeted those he dearly loved by encouraging them that he has remembered them and is praying for them. “I give thanks to my God for every remembrance of you, always praying with joy for all of you in my every prayer,” (Philippians 1:3-4 HCSB). “I thank God, whom I serve with a clear conscience as my ancestors did, when I constantly remember you in my prayers night and day,” (2 Timothy 1:3 HCSB). Paul remembered his close disciple and friend Timothy and the wonderful church in Philippi when he prayed for them. Not only does remembering someone in your prayers come from the relationship you already have, your affections and your thoughts will begin to focus on that person or group of people more as your pray for them. You end up doing the above things; you text them how you can pray for them; you seek ways to serve them even though they are far away and remind them of God’s truth and the good news even when they are out of the range of your voice.
This by far can be the hardest one for some of us, especially those of us who get excited for the above two. I find myself consistently forgetting to remember those who are away from me in my prayers. It’s no surprise that very often my feeble prayers are all about me and my circumstances. Conversely, when my prayers are saturated with the needs and cares of others, the prayers I send out are vital and filled with joy as I remember those people and also anticipate with joy the Spirit hearing my prayers and coming to the aid of those who need it. When you lift those who are far from you in prayer the Spirit will help you to remember them in the future in the everyday hustle and bustle of life.
There are three things I have been turning over in my mind. What other things can you do to disciple and serve others while you are in transition or apart?