I want you to picture two men: One man looked like a scary version of Nick Nolte when he starred in Down and Out in Beverly Hills, and the other looked like a large version of Charles Manson on a bad day. They obviously had been living homeless for some time and literally only had the clothes on their backs. Our church was in what would be considered “the hood” and we ministered to the homeless in the area. I had made friends with many homeless folks and I was slightly acquainted with these two gentlemen, but knew little about their backgrounds. When they knocked on my door, I felt safe to let them in, and invited them to sit down in my office. I asked them what I could do for them. They looked at me and began to cry. I knelt in front of them and asked what was wrong. They went on to tell me that they were brothers and their mother had just died. I immediately went into “fix it” mode: “Do you need me to help with the funeral? Want to use the church for a memorial? Are you hungry?” They shook their heads, “no”! They just wanted someone to know their Mom had died. They wanted someone to hear how much they loved her… and how bad they hurt. I listened… I leaned forward, put my arms around them and softly rocked them as they cried. Though I offered help in several ways, they just wanted to be heard; just wanted someone to acknowledge their pain; and wanted someone to see, they too, were someone’s child.
Are any of us so different? Don’t all of us just want to know someone cares enough to listen? Cares enough to take the time to truly see behind our masks? To notice our pain? To rejoice with us when we achieve our goals? And to encourage us when we suffer defeat? To show you how much I’m like a little kid needing attention, I hate to admit it, but I hound my husband until he lets me read him what I have written and then give me feedback – sometimes a paragraph at a time. Furthermore, I insist that I have his full attention as I read…the TV is definitely silenced! I don’t think any of us are very different. We may not be pushy about our needs; may be too shy or have been too hurt to be transparent about what we want from others; but that does not make the needs any less real.
In order to show our affection, we often throw “stuff” at family, friends, and even those we are trying to help, when what they really want is US. When what they really need is for us to take the time to really listen to them-really hear them on a deep level; to pray with and for them; to turn the TV off and play a board game instead of buying our kids the newest, latest and greatest as seen on TV gadget; or actually take the time to snuggle together with your spouse and do nothing but enjoy each other’s presence.
I have had the privilege to minister with Teen Challenge for many years and have seen families from all walks of life come to us in trouble-sometimes their family’s lives being shattered worse than Humpty Dumpty’s fall from the wall. Though the reasons are many and I would never want to over simplify anything, there is something every person has in common: they need to know that someone really “sees”, and really “hears” them. Whether it be the person whose life is out of control; whether it be families who are scared and hurt, not knowing which way to turn; or whether it be a child who is trying to deal with the fallout from the decisions of others. No amount of trying to “fix it” via picking up a loved one’s pieces or trying to throw good money after bad to “save” a loved one from the natural consequences of his choices will help. No matter how we may want to turn a blind eye to our pain – it will not leave… our stiff upper lip will eventually wilt. And we will eventually see that the situation must be dealt with head on. BUT HOW? If you or a loved one find yourself in an out of control situation, and don’t know what to do, try the following:
- First, turn to the One who has all the answers: Jesus really can make a way where there seems to be no way. He will also lead and direct your path.
- Seek help! Don’t try to go it alone! As Christians, we are called the body of Christ. As the Body of Christ we really do need each other.
- Now is the time. Tomorrow quickly turns to next week, next month, next year, next… and the only thing that has changed is how much worse things have gotten.
As a minister with Teen Challenge, I have seen firsthand how God uses this ministry. I count it a privilege to be a part of the Teen Challenge team. Along with ministering at our residential centers, and our outreach offices, we do all we can to refer to other sources of help as well. Just remember, if you find yourself in a situation where you are feeling overwhelmed, help is just a prayer, a call a way.