Last Tuesday, in “CATHEDRALS! Part 1”, we saw that being supportive means we need to hold up those we care about, while at the same time, ensuring that we are not sources of frustration and discouragement to them.
All that is very informative from a cognitive level; but as I stood in the streets of Barcelona that morning, waiting for the famous “Sagrada Familia”, to open for the day, I couldn’t help wondering just how I could go about holding up, reinforcing and assisting those I want to support. Little did I know that God would use this lofty cathedral to teach me three important facts about being supportive…
The Sagrada Familia is, hands down, the #1 tourist attraction in Barcelona. This towering cathedral dominates the skyline and can be seen for miles from the air; but as I stared at it that morning, I realized something amazing: It didn’t seem to have any external supports! I would later learn why. The Sagrada Familia is the creation of the famous Spanish architect, Antoni Gaudi. When he designed the basilica, he went to great lengths to learn from the forces of nature how to create a self-supported structure. He made upside down models of his designs out of weighted string. He then noted the angles at which these weights fell, and he designed the actual upright structures on the same angles. This cathedral was actually designed to stand–without external support!
Herein lies the first lesson: Being supportive means that we do everything in our power to teach those we care about to be self-supportive. Where Gaudi did this by building upside down models, we do it by introducing them to the source of true strength and support: Jesus Christ. If they already know Christ, then we do everything to encourage them to rely on Him and allow Him to be their support.
As I contemplated this, it occurred to me that the workers constructing the basilica must have had great faith in Gaudi’s plans. I mean, wouldn’t all those crazy angles seem ludicrous? I suspect, however, that they had seen other creations of this master architect and knew his blueprints could be trusted…
From this comes the second important clue for how to be supportive. It doesn’t start when the apparent need for support becomes visible; rather, it begins when we first meet those whom we wish to support. This means we make a habit of building relationships and establishing patterns of listening; it means that we love them unconditionally and unselfishly, not just when they are in difficulty, but all the time. The key to being supportive lies in having established a firm pattern of trust with those we wish to support!
A third lesson about being supportive that we can learn from the Sagrada Familia comes from its external beauty. As mentioned above, the basilica appears to have been built without external supports; and when you see the structure, you realize immediately that adding external supports would not only be unnecessary, but would turn this beautiful work of architectural genius into something ugly.
Unfortunately, this can one of the more painful lessons in being supportive. In the same way that putting external supports on the Sagrada Familia would ruin the structure, we need to realize that those we wish to support may not always want or need our support. If we try to be supportive when they don’t need it, it will be cumbersome to them. In order to truly be supportive, we need to simply be there, like the Rock of Gibraltar, ready and eager to help, but not pushing ourselves on them when they don’t ask.
Does this sound cold?
Think of it from a different perspective. There is no better parent than God: Abba, Papa, Daddy God. God never pushes Himself upon us, but when we open our hearts to Him and cry out, He is always there: “The godly cry out and the LORD hears; he saves them from all their troubles.” (Ps. 34:17 NET).
We also know that we need to “ask” to receive: “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened for you.” (Matt. 7:7 NET).
Just as God is always there for us, we also need to be there for those we wish to support. We shouldn’t be physically in their faces, but we need to ensure that they realize we are there for them the moment they ask.
But what if they are too proud to ask for help? Or maybe they don’t realize we can do anything for them. Or maybe they are simply too overwhelmed by the situation to do anything at all. Then what?
That’s when we quietly offer our help. We offer to be a listening ear and to share our ideas. If they accept the offer, then we are free to help, to share ideas and to be that listening ear. If they do not, however, then we must respect them as God respects us. We must release them to make their own decisions, for isn’t that what our ultimate Father does?
How to be supportive? We point them to God, our ultimate support; we make every effort to prove ourselves trustworthy; and we offer our help, but we don’t push our support upon them if they refuse our offer.
But how can a loving person just sit back and watch people make the wrong decisions? Join us on Saturday for CATHEDRALS! Part 3: Gaudi’s Crypt.
In His love,
Lynona Gordon Chaffart, Speech-Language Pathologist, mother of two, Author — “Aboard God’s Train — A Journey With God Through the Valley of Cancer”, Author and Moderator for The Nugget, a tri-weekly internet newsletter, and Scriptural Nuggets, a website devoted to Christian devotionals and inspirational poems, with Answers2Prayer Ministries. Follow Lyn on Twitter @lynchaffart.
(To access the entire “Cathedrals! Lessons on Being Supportive” mini-series, Click here.)