I had a conversation with a young man who had this amazing ability to influence people around him. He used that skill, that God-given talent to get popularity and sex. There were many aspects of this that he didn’t recognize, one of which is that what he was doing was very easy – almost effortless – for him where it was very difficult for others. Many of his peers would have to calculate a long, arduous strategy to get in bed with as many women as he did. There was this vibrant energy in him, this power to form deep emotional connections with people that he was using in so many ways. He was a marginal athletic talent on his basketball team, to where he didn’t make it his senior year, but his team talked about him like he was the hero, the future Hall of Famer that they had all been waiting for. He was not remarkable in appearance except for his height, but people saw in him a profound joy, a peace, a love flowing outward. He had such an amazing ability to connect, and he was surrounded by people who were desperate to be connected. So he did, and he used it for all manner of selfish means.
In this conversation I had with him, I first pointed out the latent skill. “Look at how good you are at this,” I explained. He was young enough that he didn’t see the energy it took himself, as young people rarely do, to accomplish what was in front of him. A forty-year old might notice the drain on his physical stamina to engage in social events and such. But it was clear to me, watching from the periphery, that he was able to be sociable with little effort at all. He was just really good with people. That was the first step.
Then I pointed out how that played out, specifically with his peers (popularity among his peers) and with women (the steady stream of women that he was sleeping with). As best as I could, I pointed it out in a matter-of-fact way. This is how it happens. You are able to form a deep emotional bond with people very easily, and they connect with you, and then, without ill intent, you end up either their best friend or you end up having sex with them. The connections he forms go as deep as they can go, all the time. He realized as much, as I compared his social interactions with specific peers he knew, those who had relatively much less “success” than he in the same process.
What I offered then was redemption. That talent for connecting with people, I explained, is a God-given gift. You are supposed to be able to form deep, fulfilling, powerful emotional and spiritual connections with people. You are a leader in that, you are so incredibly powerful in that. I offered the absurd scenario of, if you wanted to, you (speaking to this young man) could get everyone around you drinking milk out of a carton. Just by you doing it, inviting others to do it with you, bringing them little cartons of milk whenever you showed up. Before long, everyone would be doing that cool new thing. I said, imagine if you used your influence to point people to what’s better, or best for them. What if you could point them to their value, to their real worth, and showed them love that’s even better than the love you can offer them. What if you could point them to Jesus, and what if that was what you were supposed to be doing all along. I painted a picture of his re-directing his future family, co-workers, his future teammates and peers to goodness. To God. I pointed out the power that he carries, and what he was currently doing with it, and then what God wanted him to do with it.
What has God gifted you to do? What is it that you are doing so naturally, effortlessly, so easily that you don’t even realize you are doing it? If someone, maybe your best friend, replayed their experience with you – how you made them feel, what they saw or heard when you spoke or showed up – what would they say?
For me, a good friend pointed out to me the power of my words, and in that he pointed out how I was so easily, effortlessly, so perfectly destroying people with what I said. I had this keen ability to find the deepest, rawest wound, or that “nerve” and hit it with the sharpest of perfectly formed phrases. I had this path of destruction around me. At that time in my life, this “good friend” essentially kicked me while I was down – but I don’t think I would have heard it otherwise. My path to redemption was recognizing the power behind my words, that I could make people feel like they could do anything. I could make people feel like they had the ability, the beauty, the blessing and favor, the power to conquer anything they laid their eyes on. I could make people so confident that they would run through a wall without getting hurt, they could ask for anything and receive it, they could overthrow the government without firing a shot because of God’s plan for them… or I could do the opposite. I had spent many years up to that point doing the opposite. I had this trail of destruction behind me. Fortunately, I had a friend willing to stand in front of me, and receive my not-so-gentle push-back, and tell me the truth. That was my path to redemption, realizing my giftedness and how my character was destroying what God had put in me to create and build up.
What’s your path to redemption? And what about the people around you? How do you see God redeeming them in their giftedness and their identity in him? I am a spokesman for God, I have eyes to see what God is doing in people, and when I am healthy and good and in love with the Father, I can speak that out. And I love that I am redeemed and also being redeemed, and I love inviting people into it with me!