In John 21:15-17 the Bible recounts three times when Jesus asked His disciple Peter, “Do you love me?” to which Peter replies each time, “Yes, Lord you know I love you.” To which Jesus replies similarly, “Then feed my sheep.” For over a year I have continued to hear these words in my head; feed My sheep. Each time I try with great effort to discern what the “feed My sheep” directive may mean for me. I’ve contemplated the obvious, serving at a food bank; nope. I then considered perhaps it meant teaching since I do public speaking as a career; nope. All my best attempts to discern what this deep internal voice meant were met with an empty silence.
Now, over a year later, I continue to hear, “Feed My sheep.” The difference now is that I finally decided to seek outside counsel by doing what I am trained to do; research the topic. In the midst of spending time reading commentaries it hit me, feed the hungry spirit. The emphases on spirit was the nuance that was continuously being impressed upon me by “that” voice in my head. OK, understanding the words was half the battle but I was still left with the struggle to interpret them. My bottom line question was, How does one feed a hungry spirit?” and more specifically, “How was I to feed hungry spirits?”
Well, I suppose in order to know how, one must know what. So the question became, “What does it mean exactly to have a hungry spirit?” I continued my on-line journey searching for hungry spirit exclusively. Yreka, I found it! So what made the difference, why the clarity now after over a year? The answer was simple; I finally wanted to know the answer. “What do I mean by that?” you may ask. I mean to say that I finally wanted “it” bad enough to get off my blessed assurance and seek it out. Truth be told, aren’t there times when we may desire something but not so bad as to get up and get to the business of obtaining it?
How often do we acknowledge or recognize that we go through life, desiring and craving, complaining that we are not blessed with those things we want, feeling that the universal energy or divine spirit has deprived us of what we need? Worse yet, how often do we sit and do nothing about it? Whether we choose to make peace with what we do and do not posses or choose to do something about it, we must make a decision.
So as I decided to seek out the manner in which I was to feed hungry spirits, I discovered that rather than teach (i.e., talk or educate) I was to give my attention away freely. Yes, that’s right just give others the gift of my attention. Simply listen to their concerns and purely bear witness to their condition. I have to be honest to admit that I suffer from the “fixer’s” disorder. You know the problem; I have an innate desire to fix problems. So often I think there is something I must do, when being present to another's concerns is one of the greatest gifts I can offer. Truth be told, I have found that when I listen (or am listened to) the purest form of problem solving tends to occur.
Generally, when given the opportunity and time to process issues, most individuals are able to create solutions that best serve their needs. It is those “bought into-built here” solutions that stand the highest probability of success. Now this is not to say that counsel should not be sought as appropriate, but at the end of the day, the one responsible for executing the fix must be convinced of the tools to be used.
Here’s the challenge, the next time someone you know comes to you with a problem consider listening long enough to allow them to identify its solution. In so doing, you may just aid in the feeding of a hungry spirit.