By CHRIS BATES
My buddy and I had spent countless early mornings fishing together. One weekend morning, we met about 30 minutes before dawn for coffee on the pier. It was nice to sit and listen to the crickets still chirping and watch the last of the stars fade as the sun began to break the surface. While we always searched for the big trophies once we were on the water, this initial time in the quiet outdoors was always one of the best parts of the experience.
There was little wind that morning, and it was turning into one of those times when the fish also seemed to be still and inactive. As we fished and moved around the different parts of the lake, it turned into more of an opportunity to enjoy the time together. I guess that quietness gave him the opportunity to really contemplate all that he had going on in life. I looked over at one point as we were working down a grassy bank, and I could see how deep in thought he seemed to be. I hesitated to say anything, until I remembered that whatever he had going on, this might be the best chance for someone to just listen and relate to him.
As is often the case, once I checked in, my friend was much more eager to get some heavy burdens off his chest than even he realized. I was glad he was taking the chance to fill me in. As is often the case, once he revealed the full story, it was something I had been through several years before. I was careful not to give advice, but I did share about that part of my own journey, and the relatability seemed to provide relief to him. He needed the setting, the time and the opportunity so he could not only share but find some comfort knowing he was not alone.
These kind of connections require several important steps. First, we need time together to set the stage for communication. For us, that was time in the outdoors before the rest of the world woke up. In your life, that might look like recreation with a friend, but it also can be lunch together, exercising with them, shopping time, or a regular Sunday evening Facetime with a long-distance friend or relative.
Next it requires courage. It is a risk and takes bravery to let down your guard, value the other person so much that you will take the chance, and believe in your own story. The safe route is to remain shallow in the relationship and not be confident that you and your journey are qualified to help someone else with theirs.
God tells us specifically to love Him first, “and the second (command) is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’” (Matthew 22:39). It does not tell us to be safe or shy, but to take action through love. The smallest efforts, such as checking in about what is really going on with a friend, can start a set of changes for them, especially when God is invited in. Brene Brown describes it as this: “A small, quiet, grassroots movement that starts with each of us saying, ‘My story matters because I matter.’ Revolution might sound a little dramatic, but in this world, choosing authenticity and worthiness is an absolute act of resistance.”
Ask yourself what you have to give and prepare yourself for opportunities. They may come rarely or often. They may be with a close friend like my fishing buddy, or they may be with someone you do not know as well. Humble confidence in your own value and story could be the most important tool God provides for you to use. Be intentional today and offer what you have to give. He will meet you along that path.
Chris Bates is CEO and co-founder of AgoraEversole a full-service marketing agency in Jackson, and can be reached at Chris@AgoraEversole.com. He and his wife, Stacy, and their children live in Madison.