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We love to look, feel and sound profound. After all, do we not want to make a difference? Sometimes we do harm when we invoke a profound one-liner. I remember a younger chaplain sharing how fulfilling it was to see his inmates maturing in their faith. The elder mentor quickly and adamantly responded: They are not 'yours!' They belong to God. Of course the new chaplain blushed with shame, and sheepishly said, "Yes, of course." What a shameful way to treat that eager, young cleric! His/her passion to work hard, take ownership, and celebrate the growth of his parishioners should be encouraged, not distorted into something base. If we could examine the chaplain's heart, mind and efforts we would likely find diligence, deference, compassion, and true service to the incarcerated. I doubt we would find bragging, authoritarian tendencies, or even confused boundaries. So, why the quip about the inmates not being his/hers? The mentor got to sound seasoned and profound. S/he got to expound on each person's autonomy, and on God's ultimate sovereignty. The elder got to sound smart by making the junior feel stupid. Perhaps the senior chaplain meant well, and really thought there was a point to be made. Nevertheless, I resist the easy, profound one-liner. Better to listen a little more, assume the better in those we counsel, and to wait for the opportune time when God truly directs us to offer a few words of encouragement and life.
Could it be that the main reason atheists doubt God is not that they are disappointed with Him, but rather they find so little evidence of the LORD within the character, demeanor, and personalities of his followers. For the complete essay on this topic see: https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/intimacy-god-real-tommy-ellis