“Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves.” – Romans 12:10 (NIV)
I’ll never do that to my grandchildren! is what was in the back of my mind as a child. I loved my maternal grandmother, Susie Mae, but I felt embarrassed when she spoke out loud in church to give an announcement from the pew and when I went to the doctor’s office with her. I’d pull out a kids magazine as she talked to ALL the other people waiting to see the doctor. It was her practice to unwind a relational ball of yarn to find at least one person in the room that she was either related to or had met somewhere else. She could tell you the names of your cousins “once removed,” and she’d draw you into the conversation that you pretended not to hear.
She believed that wherever she was, she had been put there
with a unique opportunity to connect with someone.
In the course Leadership Theory, Dr. Noel Forlini Burt says, “Our wounds are where our stories are, and our stories are the places that ground us for transformative leadership.” This can happen when you, like my grandmother, believe that God has put you in positions wherever you are to find out where our stories connect.
The verse in Romans says to “Honor one another above yourselves.” That seems right and something you really want to do. Yet doing it requires you to intentionally connect with others.
Intentionally giving honor takes practice. It means relying on God’s presence to speak words of honor as you show interest. One of the best and easiest ways to show honor is to be a safe place where others can share their stories. As you hear and connect with them, you give honor. Speaking words of truth while listening to those stories can also show honor as we let the Holy Spirit speak His words.
Intentionally putting another above yourself takes humility. In conversations, you may find it easier to talk about yourself than to intentionally find out more about the other person. While it’s important to be vulnerable and to tell your story, you want to be humble as you listen and learn. Lifelong learning is a skill that leaders have or develop, and learning from others is a way to humble yourself and find out more about others. Putting another above yourself may or may not be natural for you, but you’ll find great joy when you intentionally practice learning something from another person regularly.
Intentionally being a tool for transforming others takes a connection to the real transformer, Jesus. If you continue to strive and work from your own strength, you may do a good job, but it may not be the job that Jesus wants to do through you. It is when you let go of that striving and abide in Him that you truly connect in ways you had not expected.
God has given His Spirit to you, and you’ll be able to share His love to others as you stay connected to Him and rely on His presence in you to speak through you. My grandmother was connected to the vine. She read her Bible throughout the day and stayed in communion with Christ through prayer. She lived her life connected to God, and it was evident in her gentle actions and in her speech. Perhaps that’s why she boldly spoke up when the rest of us wanted to stay quiet.
Just as God put Esther in a position to help the Jewish people and Nehemiah in a position to rebuild a wall, God continues to put His people in positions to be used for His purposes. Do you know how you are positioned to lead? Recognizing the specific positions where He places you can help you be intentional about asking God to show you the eternal purpose for each circumstance.
As God puts you in various positions, He also guides you to serve others wherever you are, including the place where you live.
HOW ARE YOU UNIQUELY POSITIONED TO KNOW YOUR NEIGHBORS?
If you are like me, you are choosing to pray fervently for your neighbors by name. You’ve been writing down their names on cards and filling in the gaps with bits of information you learn about them. Perhaps you are now praying for one of the neighborhood children and for the teachers that will interact with them.
As a child of the King of kings, you receive assignments and positions ordained for His purposes. Your unique place on earth, the place where you live, may have seemed your choice, yet God has a purpose for your position there.
As you walk your neighborhood this week, utilize this unique position. Here are two practical ways to look for personal connections.
1. Consider your travel as a starting point. Think of all of the cities and countries where you have visited. Are any of your neighbors from these places?
2. What positions do you hold in your family or at your workplace? Do you share the birth position or birth month of someone in your neighborhood? Are you the firstborn or the baby? Are you both born in December? Is there someone in your neighborhood with the same kind of job you have or have had?
Pray that God will show you why you have been put in this place for this time.
Romans 12:10 applied practically might look something like what my grandmother had with perfect strangers. While you may not have the “gift of gab” in every situation, you can take simple steps to weave a thread of relationships in your own neighborhood. You are in the perfect position to do so.
HOW ARE YOU INTENTIONALLY CONNECTING WITH YOUR NEIGHBORS?
Let’s be intentional together and look for opportunities to connect. Join me in the Know Your Neighbor Christian Women’s Leadership Challenge.
Claudia Johnson hopes to connect with her neighbors as she walks in her neighborhood near Birmingham, Alabama.