A couple weeks ago, David and I went for an evening bike ride around a lake. The lights reflected in the water and it was beautiful!
On our way back to the car, we had to ride up this looong upward hill through some trees, and the path didn’t have any lights. This meant it was pitch black, so dark I could hardly see the path at all! Anyone who knows me knows that I am TER.RI.FIED. of the dark, especially in a forest!! So, I mean, I was booking it!!
About halfway up, I realized David wasn’t behind me anymore! I stopped, and called out to him. No answer. My heart was pounding like crazy as I was faced with a decision: I could either keep riding up the top of the hill where there was safety and light and wait for him there, or I could turn around and find him.
Unsure what to do, this thought popped into my mind “How could I live with myself if I went to the top without him and he was in trouble??”
So I turned around.
I had to ride for a while before I found him. His bike wasn’t good for uphills so he was walking. Relieved, I hopped off my bike and walked with him up the rest of the way.
To most people, this would be a mildly scary story that’s not worth telling. But to me, of course, it was instantly a metaphor!
How often is life like a dark uphill bike ride filled with uncertainty and fear? On our way to the top where there is safety and clarity, how many times are we faced with the same decision: should I go down and help them, or should I just worry about getting myself there?
Lately, I’ve noticed that there is one big burning question floating in the church: How do we maintain high standards and avoid temptation, while also being there for others who aren’t living our standards?
I’ve thought about this a lot, and while it is important to approach this question prayerfully and take your own strengths and weaknesses into consideration, I believe we can meet people where they’re at.
When I say “meet them where they’re at” I don’t mean “lower your standards”, but meet them where they are the same way Christ did. He helped the sinners, the ill, the prideful, He would meet people where they were to lift them up, all the while being unceasingly righteous.
Here are three things I believe Christ did to meet people where they were to lift them up.
The first thing you should always do, is love. When in doubt, just love! Love them enough to face the dark uncertainty and stay with them.
If you’re struggling to feel love for someone, pray “that you may be filled with this love.” Then do what it takes to make sure they feel loved. I sometimes make the mistake of thinking if I feel love for someone, s/he should naturally feel it too. But even when your love for someone may seem obvious, it’s important to find ways to express love in the ways they need it.
It’s also crucial that you never try to use your love to force someone into what you want him to do. I made this mistake on my mission, I would use the words “I love and care about you” as a ticket to tell people how they should live. But using “love” to get someone to do what you want them to do isn’t love, it’s manipulation.
Accept the fact that you cannot control other people. They need to make their own decisions. You can express love and concern, make recommendations, but don’t make demands.
Love is allowing someone to make their own decisions, even if it is the wrong decision*. The most important thing you can do is make sure they feel loved, and be there for them no matter what.
Some people aren’t equipped with the same bike as you. David is definitely a more skilled biker than me, but I had a bike with gears that allowed me to power up that hill. I wasn’t more capable, I just had a different resource.
Everyone has different backgrounds, mindsets, resources, and beliefs. Everyone is doing their best with what they have. I’ve learned that when I look through another person’s perspective, it helps me to be more empathetic, more patient, and more capable of offering help.
Get in the habit of putting yourself in other people’s shoes. Even when you disagree, strive to understand where they are coming from. Ask questions and listen to their point of view. No one understands others more than the Savior, try to imagine how He see’s those around you.
Pray for them
Never underestimate the power of prayer. God listens to your prayers! Results may not happen overnight and God respects His children’s ability to choose for themselves, but if you pray in faith, good things will come.
God answered the prayers of Alma and His people when Alma the younger was “seeking to destroy the church”, why wouldn’t He answer yours? (Mosiah 27:14). Christ Himself prayed for others well-being (Luke 23:34, 3 Ne 17:14-15, 3 Ne 19:23+28)!
The point is, your prayers make a difference. It can be scary to pray for certain blessings because what if it never happens? But sometimes we just need to put away our fears, get on our knees, and ask for it anyway with as much faith as we can muster. Heavenly Father will hear your prayer and help you know what you need to do.
I truly believe it is possible to help those around us who may be lost or wandering without lowering our own standards and becoming lost ourselves. There are so many people who just need to be loved, understood, and prayed for! I hope we can all try a little harder to be a little more like Jesus everyday and walk with those who struggle to get to the top of the hill.
*if there is a life threatening situation, it may be necessary to take certain precautions and interfere.