Earlier this week, Arthur and I had coffee and dessert with a couple who have been instrumental in our ministry formation. We were honored just by their willingness to catch up with us. Even more affirming was how the evening unfolded.
On paper, this couple are entirely superior to us. They have higher qualifications, far greater ministry experience, well respected pastoral insights, and superior church position and status. Just in the course of the conversation, I could identify several ways in which their ministry has shaped me. Yet, there was nothing about them that was condescending.
Arthur and I came out of our time with them feeling energised and excited. I felt like the things that were on my heart and the questions in my head were honestly interesting to them. I felt relaxed and ‘myself’. I wasn’t watching what I said; but I also didn’t feel like I was putting my foot in it.
What was even more extraordinary, was that I think they were relaxed too! They were frank and open with us. We tossed around a few ideas they’d been thinking through. There was genuine exchange and a beautiful respect.
They had no reason to offer these things to us. We would have been genuinely grateful if our evening together was about them developing us. What an opportunity to learn! But they took that one step further and treated us like we had something to offer them. We were far more than a project or a ministry opportunity. We were friends and partners. They acted as if it was their privilege and pleasure to catch up with us!
Being treated like that by these two was both supremely affirming and practically instructive. It gave me a sense of what partnership really can look like, even when there is a power imbalance. When I am the powerful one ‘on paper’, this is the sort of humility I hope will characterise me: not a sense of condescension or one-sided relationship, but the real alliance and collaboration of actual two-way regard.
Tamie Davis is an Aussie living in Tanzania, writing at meetjesusatuni.com.