Several weeks ago I had the privilege of doing some work in the amazing country of Kenya. Fitted tightly into a full schedule were two days at the Kijabe Hospital. This hospital is an amazing gift from God to the Kenyan people. Three of us were partnered with hospital chaplains to visit and pray for patients. Before going on our rounds we met with the senior chaplain for some instructions. A phrase he used to prepare us continues to stir my heart. He very politely and with generosity of soul shared with us some of the ways the Kenyan culture was different from our own. However, the traditional greeting, like that of our own country is to shake hands. While explaining to us the Kenyan value of time and presence he said to us, when you shake their hands “let them feel the weight and the warmth”. The phrase went deep with me.
Our Kenyan friend was familiar with the culture of the west. He knows that we often value time as a limited commodity in which to accomplish necessary (or seemingly necessary) tasks. He knows the unspoken mantra of the west is “busy people are important people”. “Time is money” is a feeble attempt to quantify the value of time. As one who lived a good deal of his adult life in cultures less focused on time, I wonder if at times I am more schedule-driven than Spirit led. I find I must often return to my favorite (self-edited) quote, that “people are not problems to be solved, but mysteries to be explored”. Exploring mysteries takes time and presence, weight and warmth.
As I have pondered the words of the chaplain I have been reminded of a few deep truths. Life is all about relationships. The Greatest Commandment, buoyed by the full weight of all the scriptures (See Matt. 22:40), exposes Abba’s chief desire as being love motivated relationships. Offering warmth and weight recognizes and affirms the worth and valueof every human being, no matter their current state in life, as an image bearer of God (Gen. 1:26). Warmth and weight opens and softens the heart of the recipient.
I believe our friend was saying to us, look into the eyes (ignoring your watch) of the person whose hand you are shaking, be fully present with them, offer them the gift of the warmth of your presence and the weight of your time. The genuine gift we have to offer others is ultimately ourselves. Paul said it this way: Having so fond an affection for you, we were well-pleased to impart to you not only the gospel of God but also our own lives, because you had become very dear to us (1 Thess 2:8). Paul may well be saying hearts were opened to the Gospel because of the weight of Paul’s love and the warmth of the investment of his time in the people.
I also hear enfolded in the words “warmth and weight” facets of heart attitudes like; honesty, transparency, genuineness. I have found that people are set at ease by honesty and humility. In a person to person encounter we can choose to not apply our spiritual cosmetics, drop our masks and refuse to put our best foot forward and simply offer others our genuine selves; a God-loved bundle of strengths and weaknesses. When we step outside the courtroom of trying to determine the verdict of how we are perceived (a topic for another day) we are able to offer the gift of listening. The French proverb that says “to be heard is to be healed” captures the warmth and impact of listening ears and the affirmation that it brings.
Where does our weight come from? Our weight comes from His glory. It comes from the unprecedented, unimaginable act of Another. It comes from the accomplishment of the Eternal One, humbling Himself and meeting us right where we live. It comes at His high personal cost of rescuing us – from ourselves. The warmth is no less than his fiery love.
…..for [Your] love is as strong as death, its jealousy unyielding as the grave. It burns like blazing fire, like a mighty flame. (Song of Songs 8:6)
When we are in touch with the truth that our hearts are filled by the weight of His glory and warmed by the fire of His love, we cannot help but offer the same to others. Key words – in touch!