I remember the conversation. The man leaned forward and asked me, “What is the key thing you have learned in reaching out to society’s marginalized?”
Without hesitation, I answered, “Posture.”
My answer surprised him. I explained. “The posture I am referring to isn’t physical posture — the ‘straighten your back or lift your chin up’ posture. What I mean is the inner attitude of the heart and mind.”
Why Spiritual Posture is Vital
Posture has become so vital for my service organization. Each time we orient new volunteers, we explain that our posture before God, each other, and those we are seeking to reach is of utmost importance.
We remind our volunteers that God is the one who transforms lives. He is the Savior and we are his servants and messengers. It is his Kingdom and ultimately, he alone has the power to change people.
The posture of volunteer workers needs to involve teamwork, serving one another and deferring to each other — loving one another. When volunteers join a ministry team with the right posture, then they will learn from others, show up faithfully and fully engage — committing to be the best teammate they can be.
Our posture before those we are seeking to reach is paramount also. People who are socially marginalized, who are in distress or pain, in a powerless situation, or who have lost hope, are very sensitive to our approach. People who are in pain sense condescending or arrogant approaches or attitudes.
Abundant fruit come when we assume the right posture.
We consistently remind ourselves that those struggling with addictions, widows experiencing loss and loneliness, those in long term care who are in a different kind of prison, new immigrants and refugees who don’t feel like they belong and may have been traumatized, and those who are incarcerated — all remind us that we, as Christ followers, are powerless to produce “ah ha” moments, to change hearts, to heal, to deliver, to set free or to really give hope. But, God can.
We have learned that there are no magic formulas, articulate words, or clever tools. The real power to transform lives comes from God. We have to trust in Jesus and not rely on our own efforts.
We have noticed that seasons of abundant fruit come when we assume the right posture. God is transforming all of us — our volunteers and those we reach out to, and we all experience mutual transformation.
We believe this is true for all Christ followers, but is magnified in volunteer service. Our posture makes all the difference! We have to remember who God is, and realize his power to change us and the world. We should remember who we are — and who we are not.
If God can change us, He can change the world.
Recently, I attended an event at a local prison. A model prisoner, who had become a spiritual leader, addressed the crowd. His life, and the lives of his fellow inmates, had been radically transformed. Even the guards had witnessed the transformation. Suddenly he had an “ah ha” moment. Looking at his fellow inmates and then looking back over the crowd, the man exclaimed, “If God can change us - he can change the world!”
We need to look at Jesus, and then remember and reflect his posture. He called himself gentle and lowly of heart. He reflected a posture of humility before his Father and the people he encountered. In John 5, Jesus explained that the Son can do nothing by himself. In John 13, Jesus, knowing who he was and where he was going, got up and humbly began to wash his disciples’ feet and told them to go and do likewise. In John 14:31 Jesus explained that the world needs to learn that he loves the Father and does exactly what the Father tells him to do.
Jesus’ model of taking a humble posture spiritually brings us in step with the Spirit and into alignment with the will of the Father. It can alter our perspective.
When we keep our eyes on the Father, our fear can turn to faith. When we realize he is all-powerful, we can rely on him. Humble teammates cooperate with each other and work together by loving one another and using all of their gifts for the greater good. Humble posture before those we are seeking to reach communicates value and dignity, and ultimately love.
What happens when our posture is out of alignment?
Individually or collectively, we can block or hinder the Spirit’s work through us, just like our vertebrae can hinder nerve function when they are out of alignment. Pride can cause condescension or speaking down to others. We can try to change people, and we can try to help others through human effort by our own strength, which ultimately leads to burnout. We go through the motions in prayer — ultimately believing that it really is up to us and we need to just try harder. We can end up depressed and cynical, and become powerless to change the lives of others because our eyes focus only on the natural and not on God and his Kingdom.
The Lord held up a mirror to my soul
My own journey brought me through times when I needed an alignment in my posture. In one season in particular, I had been hurt, burned out and felt like I was no longer capable of leading. In the midst of this, the Lord called me to my next assignment. I attended my first staff conference and sat on a bench where two roads met in the form of a V. I was crying out to God, asking him to make me strong again and to bring me back to when I felt like I was a capable leader. He distinctly revealed to my heart that he was taking me a different way.
Then the Lord held up the mirror to my soul and showed me that my posture was out of alignment. I had been “successful” in ministry but I was relying on myself. He wanted his Spirit’s influence over me to grow stronger, not for me to make my flesh stronger on my own.
When we ask God to remind us of who he is, what he has done, what he continues to do, and what he is able to do — when we take the time to ponder Jesus’ love and sacrifice until it leads to a profound gratefulness for our Savior, and when we realize how he meets our deepest needs and the needs of the world — it can change our lives.
Embracing a posture of prayerful dependence upon God means acknowledging we can do nothing in our own strength, and then asking him to move mountains. We then begin to grow in excitement and anticipation of what God can do rather than growing in fear or anxiety over what we cannot do.
We have to remember, as 1 Peter 5:5b reiterates, “God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble.”
Our heart posture matters. So, I would encourage you to invite the Lord to check your posture. Where are your eyes and thoughts focused? What is the attitude and posture of your heart? Ask him to align your heart with the Father and his will for you. Surrender and submit to his counsel.
Ask the Lord to show you if you are out of alignment, depending upon yourself — buying lies about ministry being all up to you. Humble yourself before him and he will lift you up in due time.