A few months ago, I was walking with a friend and she was telling me about her problems in math. She is studying to get an advanced degree and has to take a dreaded calculus class. “I really need help.” “Well, I was a math tutor for years, if you want I can give you a hand.” So we talked about setting up a day and time. This is how it went.
“Well, I can’t do Thursday, because I won’t have time to start the homework before then. I’ll need to start after the weekend.” “It’s no problem if you haven’t started the homework. That’s how I usually do it.” “What do you mean?” “You don’t have to have anything ready beforehand, I’ll just accompany you doing your homework.” “I’ve never heard of that way. Every tutor I’ve ever had, you have to come to them with some specific questions or problems that you’re having in the course.” “Well, I’ve never done it that way. I accompany people in their doing their homework, and that way, I can follow their whole thought process as it unfolds. As long as they’re on a good path, I don’t do anything. If they stray, I let them struggle a bit to try to figure it out. Then, if they’re suffering, I’ll start asking questions that lead to the road out. Or, if they’re having a tough day, and they head off in a really bad direction, I might start with the questions earlier. But either way, I end up finding the sweet spot – the hinge point that is the source of their strayings. And that’s when we might do a short aside lesson. And then we move on. I have a 100% success rate.” “I like that approach.”
What I learned over the years in tutoring is that the best way to help someone struggling is to accompany them in their ordinary way. You get to understand them, and you see the spots that make or break their progress. You see the sweet spots.
In the Gospels, Jesus always knew how to touch everyone who was suffering in a unique way. He knew exactly where all the sweet spots were, all the aspects of life and health that were the make or break for people’s lives. When people came to Him, He didn’t need them to spell out their problems – He already knew them. All they needed were some questions asked and some short aside lessons here and there. There’s a reason for that: He spent 30 years living with the local people, day in and day out. He didn’t come into their lives out of the sky, a grown man and religion/life expert. He was born as a baby into accompanying them in their ordinary lives. He already knew their sweet spots.
Sometimes it can seem as if God is not around anywhere because He’s not saying anything to us. Other times, He’s asking us to pause, and posing some questions to us. Sometimes He invites us to a little aside lesson. But it’s all because He’s accompanying us all the time – He’s not distant. That’s what the Incarnation is about. He’s intimate and close in everything we’re doing. We don’t have to compile our problems and whatnot and bring them to Him. He already knows our lives and struggles and, even more, He knows the sweet spots in our hearts that make or break the steps we take in life. It may seem different, even unique, but it’s the way He is.
And He’s got a 100% success rate.
You might like that approach.
“Jesus knew all men and needed no one to bear witness of man; for he himself knew what was in man.” (Jn 2:25)