A friend of mine works with mentally challenged people. Some of his clients have severe disabilities. His work is really a ministry. His commitment is humbling. This week we had breakfast together. In the course of our conversation he described how he and his staff handle violent confrontations. I listened with interest because I know my friend is also a second degree black belt in karate. I was expecting this highly trained martial artist to tell me how he did some exotic Bruce Lee style karate move on an aggressive patient.
As we sat in the diner, my friend said that because of abuse in the workplace, new ways to handle violent attacks were developed. Each staff member is now trained to not grab a client because grabbing someone would leave a mark - a bruise. The thumb is the culprit. They are now taught to touch aggressors with only an open hand. They do this by placing their thumb alongside the index finger forming an open hand that is not able to grab and apply pressure that would leave a bruise. They only way they are allowed touch a client during an assault is with an open hand until the client is able to calm down. As a result of this technique, no bruising marks are left on the aggressor when the violent encounter is over.
As I sat listening to my friend, the Lord began to download so much to me about how we as the Church should engage our culture. There is a lot of cultural and theological pushing, shoving and grabbing taking place. We have all seen the angry confrontations in the public square where both sides of an issue try to grab each other in an attempt to forcefully subdue the opposition. In some cases this interaction has left bruises on both sides. The writer of Hebrews describes the only thing we can take hold of that will not leave a bruise - “Take hold of the hope set before us.” (Hebrews 6:18). Hope, not the will of another person, is the only safe place to apply pressure.
My friend used to be a pastor. He told me working with mentally challenged people has taught him more about how to love other people than he ever learned working within the walls of a church. He said he is now the student and his clients are the ones teaching him. My friend has learned all of this with an open and gentle hand.