“Does it bother you?” my husband pointedly asked me. It was his usual way of being annoying. When he sensed he had touched a nerve with what he said or did, he would underscore his actions and press down. Of course, it was always in good fun, but yes, it really did bother me!
People do things that bother us. And sometimes our conscience is bothering us with nagging thoughts. If something isn’t important enough or worth the effort or time, we can’t be bothered with it. If it looks pointless and we are sure it won’t work, we don’t bother even trying.
When I apologize for asking someone to help me, I’m relieved when they say, “Oh it’s no bother. I’ll be glad to!” Sometimes I hesitate to interrupt or confront or approach someone who I feel is really busy or who holds a level of importance above me. I politely ask, “Is it okay if I bother you?”
But what if we are the person people feel they can’t bother, can’t approach? Perhaps it’s an impression others have of us, real or imagined. When I was teaching there were parents who were afraid to come talk with me. I wasn’t considered approachable. Maybe it was what their child had said about me. I remember one mother arriving for a conference who exclaimed, “You certainly aren’t who I expected based on my daughter’s description!”
I don’t consider myself a threatening person. I’m quite slight in stature. I smile a lot, not just with my mouth but with my eyes too. Most people consider me friendly and pleasant. But I do have a reputation for expecting excellence and not accepting second best when I know it can be better. Maybe that’s what the threat is, that I won’t be open to someone’s ideas or concerns. That I won’t be bothered to listen.
When someone finally breaks through their hesitancy to approach me, the reasons for their uncertainty pour out: “I didn’t come to you before because you are such an important person.” “I didn’t think it was important enough to bother you.” “I was worried you would turn me away.” “I thought you wouldn’t listen.”
In some cases, people stand in the way of others coming to us, thinking they are doing us a service. It reminds me of the disciples who told those mothers to keep their babies and children away from our Lord Jesus. “Don’t bother him!” (Matthew 19:13 TLB). Their scolding to the mothers added weight to the status of Jesus and to the lack of importance of those children. Fortunately, our Lord set those middlemen straight and welcomed the little ones. He didn’t want to seem unapproachable.
How can I be approachable like Jesus? If others feel I’m not approachable, if their perception is keeping us apart, what can I do?
Sometimes I’ve used others to speak on my behalf. I’ve made a bigger effort to be more welcoming. I try to “go the extra mile” to reach out to meet people where they are instead of expecting them to always come to me. Sometimes it’s a matter of responding YES to an invitation. It’s also important to not look too busy or seem to be busy all the time, giving the impression I’m not to be bothered or approached.
I’ve also watched people who at first glance seem inaccessible but can quickly turn that impression around. Many at our church felt Lillian was unapproachable because she was always a paragon of perfection in her appearance. One morning she appeared at my door for an unexpected visit. Toys were scattered around our baby daughter, who was quietly sitting on the floor. As usual Lillian was impeccably dressed with full makeup and perfectly coifed hair. Before I could offer her a chair, she was down on the floor, engaging with our little girl, totally unconcerned if her outfit would be mussed.
Although I know it’s not true, I sometimes wonder If God is always approachable. Can He be bothered with what’s on my heart? After all I’m just one person in a huge world clamoring for His attention. I sometimes feel like the psalmist who sees the awesomeness of creation and wonders “Why do you bother with us?” (Psalm 144:3-4 MSG).
But our God didn’t think we were pointless, not worth it. And the situation of the world “bothered” Him so much that He knew it was time for the intervention that had been planned since time began.
God understood that His children could feel He was unapproachable. They were so focused on His high expectations and His anger and wrath at their disobedience that they missed His mercy and love and forgiveness. He sent His Son Jesus so they and we would understand just how much He loves us. Because He was willing to take His own Son’s life as a sacrifice for our sins, we now have the privilege to approach Him with freedom and confidence that He will listen (Ephesians 3:11-13; John 5:14) and we will find mercy and grace (Hebrews 4:16).
Certainly, that baby in the manger was totally non-threatening, completely approachable. Though He would grow up just like us, the little Lord Jesus would have a mission like no other –
saving the world from sin and death. His position, His authority would set Him apart for glory. Yet at this point the humblest shepherds and the richest, most respected magi could approach Him equally, on bended knee, with their worship and gifts.
And now we too take the time, we “bother” to be welcomed into that Holy Child’s presence. Knowing that through Him alone is the fulfillment of our life and our peace and our joy.