As Rick sat across the table from me at dinner last week I looked for the opportunity to kick small talk to the side. He was relatively a stranger to me but not for long because in the right environment and context of a situation…I love to “peel the onion,” getting to know people beyond the small talk.
Rick was going to be staying at our home so I wanted to put us all at ease. No longer strangers. I wanted to know Rick and the other men at the table who had taken vacation days to come help “strangers” who had been devastated by the flood in South Carolina. I had met Rick earlier that day while he was serving. He was sweaty and smiling…when he and the others landed at our house for a shower and to unload their stuff.
Dinner was a real treat. All the men worked in Greenville together. They were warm, open and engaging. I quickly turned the talk from college football to asking how they knew Jesus. One had grown up in a Christian home and his faith in Jesus was natural…his accepting Jesus as his Savior…at age 9 at a Christian camp (similar to my salvation experience ) and he had just nurtured his entire life in the Lord.
The second man, who was now a part-time minister and had just completed his studies at Anderson University, grew up in church. He was there every time the doors were opened. Went on all the mission trips and such but didn’t become a believer in Jesus until a mission trip at age 30 which led him back to school to earn a degree in ministry.
The third gentleman, Rick, didn’t really talk about a salvation experience. He did open up about the EXTREME pain in his life. His brother had recently died. Several years ago his son had been killed in a tragic accident and his mother was brutally murdered. To say the least, my heart instantly weighed two tons for him. Things got quiet…and all I could say at that moment was, “I am so very sorry for your pain.”
Thankfully he continued to spill his heart as his eyes welled up with tears. My thoughts raced to WOW…WOW…WOW! Earlier that afternoon when we first met, he was serving, sweating, and smiling. Who would have EVER known HIS BACK story?! The longer I live the more intent I am on dismissing small talk and “peeling the onion” with people about themselves and I find so much more.
I learn a great deal and God continues to develop compassion and understanding in my heart and my mind.
We left the restaurant but I was not done with him. Since we drove in two cars, I asked if he would ride in front with me. On the ride home I learned more. I learned that he has bought into a HUGE LIE from the enemy. He was holding himself personally responsible for his mother’s murder. He told me that on the night of her murder she had called him several times asking him to come and sit with her. He was too tired so he told her no.
He was living and stuck in the “WHAT IF’s” that Satan can CHOKE US WITH. I can tell you right now…that is one of the “tightest” and “easiest” nooses that Satan can put around our neck…and then we can take it and pull it so tight that we can barely breathe. This is where Rick was living. We didn’t get to say much else. The conversation turned as we drove into the driveway and he was ready to, “I think,” change the subject…..but I can’t and won’t let it go. I am going to pray for that “stronghold” to be broken in his life…that lie to be exposed.
I also plan on sending him a book to encourage him and shed some light on his thinking. So many points to encourage you with here……things to learn…
1. People can be smiling, sweating and serving others and be in tremendous pain themselves. As Plato put it, ““Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a harder battle.”
2. Most people have a back story.
3. If we are intentional and mindful, we can make a difference every day by being intentional with our interest in others…”a chance for them to vent or let a little of the pain drain.” “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others,” (Philippians 2:3-4). It is easy to get focused on ourselves and our pain and forget that others are in pain as well.
4. Often we don’t have to have answers…but the very least that can happen is…finding a way we can pray for others. We may learn something for ourselves in the process. We may discover a new friendship in an unlikely circumstance. C. S. Lewis reminds us that “Friendship is born at that moment when one man says to another: “What! You too? I thought that no one but myself . . .””
Lastly, and the most important point,
5. Ask God…what does He want you to do as a result of what you know now……
In my personal experience God always has a DO now.
So many times it is to pray….but often times….it is to go a step further. That step further could be life-saving for someone else.
It makes me think of the “Good Samaritan” who took the time to go a few steps further. He didn’t even have to ask or listen. “He saw!” We can read about him and learn from him today. Just a thought….what if everyone reading this blog…decided to decide to become a “good samaritan” daily in our lives? To be intentional about SEEING AND LISTENING? Getting outside of the small talk? Being intentional about knowing and helping others?
Wow! The world would be a different place. You could be the catalyst.
“We must learn to regard people less in the light of what they do or omit to do, and more in the light of what they suffer.” ~Dietrich Bonhoeffer