Wednesday, October 10, 2018

Bearing Witness

Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger. James 1:19   
Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. Philippians 2:4
Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you. Ephesians 4:32
“A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” John 13:34-35
I recently finished a book called Life in a Jar: The Irena Sendler Project, about the true story of a history day project, a Polish woman who rescued 2,500 children in Nazi-occupied Poland, and how the three girls who worked on the class project brought attention to Irena and her story. (Google it! Or, better yet, read the book.)
Several times the phrase "bear witness" comes up in the narrative. I started to think more about this phrase and all its implications, including those for us today. Online, the Merriam-Webster definition of “bear witness” is: to show that something exists or is true, or to make a statement saying that one saw or knows something.
In wartime Poland (and elsewhere in Europe during WW2 and just prior), bearing witness was, perhaps, all most people were brave enough to do. People like Irena Sendler and Oskar Schindler were the exceptions, people who risked their lives to save others. I can’t imagine their courage, and I’m thankful that there are people like them in our world.
However, we don’t need to be courageous to notice others. When we bear witness, we truly see them. Whether that’s their pain, their achievements, their trials…when we acknowledge them, they feel validated. Although this quote was more about noticing nature, I feel the same about Mary Oliver’s words below:
“Instructions for living a life.
Pay attention.
Be astonished.
Tell about it.”
Aside from astonishment, maybe we just need to listen to others. Listen when they share about their accomplishments, their stories, their worries. Bear witness.
Prayer: Dear Lord, often I am so wrapped up in my own problems that I fail to see others. Help me to truly see them, and help me listen when I want to speak. Amen.
Donna Gustafson

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