A group of Navy SEALs were performing a covert operation, freeing hostages from a building is some dark part of the world. They stormed into the room where the hostages had been imprisoned for months. The room was filthy and dark. The hostages were curled up in a corner, terrified. When the SEALs entered the room, they heard the gasps of the hostages. They stood at the door and called to the prisoners, telling them they were Americans. The SEALS asked the hostages to follow them, but the hostages wouldn’t. They sat there on the floor and hid their eyes in fear. ~ Donald Miller
Miller goes on to describe the events that followed. The SEALs were at a loss. The ones they came to rescue didn’t trust them until one of the men put down his weapon, took off his helmet, and curled up tightly next to the prisoners. He softened the look on his face and put his arms around them, something no prison guards would do. He was trying to show them he was one of them. He waited until eventually they began to meet his gaze. Then he whispered that they were Americans and had come to rescue them. Will you follow us? he asked. As he stood, one by one, the hostages did the same until all of them were willing to follow him to freedom.
The soldier had shifted from a position of authority to becoming like the hostages in their suffering. Miller says this is the story that helped Christianity make sense to him. He could see the parallel of God becoming a man, joining us in our suffering so that we would know it’s safe to follow Him.
I think it also applies in another way. We’re often at a loss when those we’re trying to rescue won’t follow. Maybe it’s because of our tendency to storm into the room, armed with all of the answers.
As we seek to serve the One who sets the hostage free, it’s time to put aside our weapons that wound (attitudes, words, actions), soften the look on our faces and the condition of our hearts, and get so close that we touch those we hope to reach. It’s a risky operation, all of that touching instead of just telling. There’s a universal code word for it: grace.