Timeless Truth Number One - You have to earn the right to be heard by building trusting friendships and relationships.
His name was Tim and I will never, I mean never, forget his name. Desperately he came to the pregnancy care center where I was developing a men’s program looking for help. He and his girlfriend had discovered they were pregnant and for days were aggressively arguing about what to do and physically fighting. Broken in spirit Tim came to me for help - and I blew it big-time.
Just under a years time I had been putting the pieces in place for our pregnancy care center to begin working with men as the men’s ministry coordinator. For twenty-five years this center, as with the lion’s share of American pregnancy care centers strictly worked with women. To no-one’s fault it’s just the way they developed since most centers began in 1973.
In the middle of preparing a PowerPoint presentation for a large church the call came over my phone, “Kurt, your appointment is here. Tim is here to see you.” Not looking away from my computer engrossed in what I was preparing I nonchalantly replied, “Send him on back to my office.” With that the receptionist sent Tim around the corner to where I was working.
Before I looked away from my computer Tim was in my office and I smelled him before I saw him. Turning around to greet him all I can remember was seeing tattoos, piercings, and unkempt hair. Not too mention the most blood shot eyes I think I’d ever seen. Literally inside my head I said, “Why the hell would anyone want to do this to him or herself?” He smelled like an ashtray and began to tell me his non-typical story.
He and his girlfriend had known they were pregnant for more than two weeks and as this particular encounter would have it Tim’s girlfriend - not him - wanted to end the pregnancy through an abortion. Contrary to the building and preparation of our men’s program where more than eighty percent of the women choosing abortion simply wanted support from their boyfriend, here was a young man wanting to step up to the plate, accept responsibility for being a dad and turn his life around.
However being a young buck and spanking new leader of a Christian men’s program at a pregnancy care center I quickly misdiagnosed the situation with Tim. My thought was, “All this kid really needs is Jesus and it’ll all workout”. With two hot movie tickets burning a hole in my wallet I asked him if he wanted to see a movie that night. Problem was the tickets were for The Passion of The Christ and I didn’t know anything about Tim’s leaning one way towards or away from God.
We met at the theater later that night, had refreshments in the lobby and went in to see our movie. Unprepared for what I was about to see myself I neglected telling Tim the emotional roller coaster he was about to ride. I’d heard reviews from our pastors who had already screened it. For nearly the next two hours we sat riveted to our seats, never moved and certainly never spoke. We came out together coated in tears.
In the hallway outside the theater we stood together silently as other people passed us for what seemed the longest time. Tim looked over at me with tears in his eyes and said, “I don’t know whether to tell you I love you or hate you for taking me through this movie with you”. We talked of things I can’t remember of for another minute or two and then went our separate ways to our cars.
That was the last I saw of Tim. He never returned a single one of my cell phone calls. I have no idea of what happened between him and his girlfriend. I can only guess, because I was so green, so eager to be the evangelistic hero what happened between him and his girlfriend, based on what I knew about them.
I violated Timeless Truth Number One - I lost the right to be heard to speak into Tim’s life. By ignoring the need to build a trusting friendship and relationship with him I put us on a path to ruin. Not genuinely listening to his needs, to honor the man, my wants, desires and ideas of what should happen next for Tim overtook the situation. Like countless scores of other people seeking help from para-church ministries Tim got burned and burned so bad to be never heard from again.
If it’s you my friend and no matter the look, smell or feel of the person approaching you, tattoos and all, look through all of it to the underlying needs being expressed, listen and love that person. Build the foundation of your service to God through building trusting friendships and relationships like Jesus did, with sinners and tax collectors coated in desperate needs ready to hear from Him who can genuinely help.
Today’s article is the first of a three-part series.