Socks for Christmas


It’s a cliché to say that one of the benefits of aging is wisdom, but the older I get, the more I realize that being clichéd doesn’t make something less true.

One of the things I’m slowly learning is that God uses even that group of people who drives you nuts. You know, the ones who are doing it wrong in your estimation, whatever the it might be. Their way is not your way, so they naturally irritate you.

The Church of Jesus is overrun with people who give advice. They seem to be the mature ones who have it going on. They always have a sure word in season and out. Problem is, most of the time it’s out of season, especially when you’re in the middle of the worst battle of your life and they come around with their Scripture hammer and whack you upside the noggin.

Do these folks ever lend a hand to help you? No. Do they let you cry on their shoulder? No. Don’t they just really hack you off? Heck, yeah.

What we don’t seem to have enough of in the Church are people who DO lend you a hand and let you cry on their shoulder. They’re the compassionate ones. Their eyes mist up when you tell your story. They’re the first ones on the phone to you when the grapevine distributes your bad news.

Everybody should be in that compassionate second group, right?

Well, you would think so.

But what I seem to be finding out is that while the compassionate group is nice, folks in that category aren’t always the best at helping you get out of your rut. A shoulder to cry on is swell, but it may not be enough a few months down the road. Odd as it may seem, the advice-givers may have the advantage here. You know, the one’s who you were about to strangle when they brought their aloof “I’ve got the answer to everything” attitude into the midst of your agony. Truth is, they may actually have something worth hearing. The other truth is that you may not have been in a place to hear it when they first dumped it on you. You needed compassion more than advice. Compassion has its limits, though. Cutting to the heart of the matter, it may also be true that the cause of your pain is your own stupidity, and while a shoulder to cry on is nice to have, sometimes a brain is really what’s needed.

Ideally, the Church would be filled with people who are both advice-filled AND compassi0nate. But if my own experience bears witness to what is normal, I’d say those rare people are just that—exceedingly rare. Most of us are going to run into an advice-giver or a compassion-giver but almost never both in one person.

So the next time you feel like the world is ending and some advice-filled sage comes up to you, drops his load of wisdom on you, and bolts, don’t get riled up because he didn’t hold your hand and say, “There, there, call me anytime, even 3 a.m. Better yet, I’ll come over tomorrow.” Uh, Mom...not what I had on my list...And if you do find compassion with those who will weep with you, don’t expect that they’ll have answers to your dilemma or a good word in season. They may not. Your personal diamond may be the rough-looking rock, and you don’t see it for what it’s worth.

And if you do stumble across person number three, who has both realities going on, recognize that you received a rare gift in the midst of tough times, that highly sculpted and polished stone

In other words, whichever kind of person God sends your way, be appreciative of the gift, even if it’s not exactly what you asked for. Remember, when you were young and green, Aunt Ida’s handknit wool socks seemed like a lousy gift Christmas morning, but when your feet were cold, they were exactly what you needed.

7 thoughts on “Socks for Christmas

  1. Jim

    Personally, I find this to be a very timely post, Dan.
    Responding to the increasing needs of folks, especially in our own family of faith, I have found myself falling far short of what might have been offered in several situations. Just as you have mentioned, I have lobbed Scripture at a suffering soul, and quite appropriate Words at that, however upon later consideration those words had to ring hollow at best and probably served to increase their pain, in spite of my best intentions.
    On other occasions, I have offered my shoulder to cry on, and later regretted offering very little in the way of spiritual guidance; and follow through has fallen victim to the ever-present scheduling excuses. In short, I know first hand that often our level of help in the time of need can be well intentioned, but lacking in substance.
    In recent weeks, I have been considering this, and for myself I think it is a matter of discernment, or in many cases an unwillingness to take time to discern how God wants me to respond in a given situation. I firmly believe that God places us on the pathway of people He wants us to help, and He will provide whatever the person needs. While I might have been at the right place at the right time; the easy way to get around it or through it quickly, was to offer a word or two of Scripture (there can’t be anything wrong with quoting the Word) and then move on.
    Other times, I have had time to give the hug and offer my shoulder to cry on, because the person was hurting so badly that emergent care was needed rather than a quote from the book of healing. (at least not at that time) God’s Word was needed, but in action not in quotations. Sadly though, I never took time to follow through for the long haul, because while God had stirred me to act, I did not allow Him to guide those actions. Choosing rather, to respond as time would allow.
    We are told in the Scripture that God equips us for every good work, yet if we do not take time to use what He has provided, the result is far short of beneficial. If we were to truly become “wrapped up in each other’s lives”, as we exist as the church, then our response to suffering would be more appropriate and long term. As long as we (and I am preaching to myself here) do not invest ourselves in each others lives, our efforts will come up short.
    Our brothers and sisters who are able to combine Word and action, for the long haul, are invested in the lives of those they help.
    While we might not intially see Aunt Ida’s gift as a good one, she invested in our lives, because she put time into her effort and was interested in our warmth and comfort, even when we weren’t.
    God Bless you Dan! My hope is the struggle I sense is ongoing in your life, be fruitful in all ways. God uses you to bless each of your readers, and I pray he continues to bless your ministry and all whom you love. Shalom! jim

  2. A very thoughtful post, so fair, and true as well to how God has constructed the body of Christ. I try to do what I would want someone to do to help me if I were in their situation. That, however, is not always representative of what that person wants. Often what I say or do to help, is what would help me, but they are so different in personality that it’s not what they were hoping for, or needing. I’m not a mind-reader, and neither is the one who tries to help when I’m suffering. I think it helps to remember that each one who does or says anything at all to help is reaching out in love in the way that they know how. If we can remember that we can accept the gift for what it is – and welcome the love that prompted it.

    Several years ago my then husband left me for another woman. (I was not a believer at the time.) During the many months that followed, besides one lady friend, not a single person called me to see how I was. Not one. On occasion I would run into someone and they would rather sheepishly ask how I was doing, but that was it. I understand how awkward it can be to reach out to someone who’s hurting, but that experience taught me who my friends were. There was one. Suffering is a lonely thing. No one can feel your pain for it. It is entirely your own. But any kind word or deed is a blessing. It is better to reach out in love and do or say something a bit wrong, than to leave someone to suffer alone without making any effort at all to comfort them.

  3. Diane R

    Frankly, what people need are Christians who accurately hear the Lord; Christians who have gotten the Bible inside of themselves and know what God is saying. 99% of Christians in North America want to give advice out of their heads which almost kills people. It’s difficult to find the kind of Christian I am advocating. One reason is because our churches do not teach people how to hear God maturely (not this flaky Chrismatic stuff that is in so many churches). I was fortunate to attend a few churches where a few people, especially in leadership (Jack Hayford’s Church on the Way was one and surprisningly a few of the Word of Faith churches were the other ones) did hear God well and weren’t arrogantly obssessed with just having to give their “wonderful” (NOT) advice.

  4. Peter P


    I’m not great at consistently praying for things but I just wanted to let you know that, even if my prayers amy be few, I’m thinking about you and the trials you are in.

    God is with you.

  5. DC

    A quote that I just recently came across that I am trying to get my head around. Do not know if it really fits here. It may.

    “If you have come to help me you are wasting your time. But if you have come because your liberation is tied up with mine, then let us work together. – Lill Watson

    Some of the best advice we we ever received came from the doctor that had to tell my wife and I that our unborn child was not going to live: “This just sucks.” We will never forget those words. They embodied part of the emotion that we felt at that moment. Others after that came in with words and deeds. Perhaps it takes all of them in combination to encourage the healing process? Some can speak helpful words, some cannot and must act instead. Alone they may not carry the balm we are looking for but in concert they may be able to provide what is needed. Just a thought.

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