For the past 10 years I have been aware that God has been trying to tell me something. I am sure it has been a lot longer than that, I just wasn’t listening. Regardless, in the past decade I have noticed that “troubled” people starting appearing in my path. I am confident those folks were always there, I just wasn’t very empathetic.
In September of last year I started a book project (BROKEN) as a result of one of those encounters. That was when the light went off and I realized that everyone is searching. They may not admit it, they might be living in a state of rebellious denial, but I am convinced we are all seekers. Our history, background, and life experiences taint and color our search, often leading us away from spiritual discovery – but we are all seekers.
A few months back I decided to try an experiment. I had noticed that people had started confiding in me and sharing some of their deepest wounds. I was about to chalk it up to just being a good friend when a waitress (and stranger) at Chili’s decided I was going to be the unloading dock for her pent up struggles and heartache. I walked away thinking, “why me? Was I just in the right place at the wrong time?” That is when the experiment began.
I travel a great deal for work and when I am on the road I stop at Chili’s, Outback, or the like. I usually asked to be seated in the bar because I can get in and out a lot quicker. It also allows me to interact and enjoy some conversation at dinner. A few months ago I decided that I would see how many people would open up to me (without leading questions and prompting). I was just going to strike up a conversation by saying, “nice day today or I am in town a few days, what’s your favorite restaurant.” The average time it took for people to start revealing very personal information was about seven minutes. Here are a few examples of what was shared:
- “I am feeling really guilty right now. I am a single mom and have to work to make ends meet, but I really should be at home with my children.”
- “My wife filed for divorce two months ago and I am still trying to get my arms around what went wrong in our marriage.”
This past Saturday I ended the “official” exercise of my experiment when it became apparent that there is only one condition necessary to enter people’s lives – LISTEN! Saturday I was at a garage sale and after a few minutes of chatting about kids and school the seller began to bear his soul. His son was in drug rehab, they would have lost their house without the help of a local charity and he recently lost his job.
I am not the best listener, so I know it’s not me. I need to listen better at work, at church, and especially at home, but the world too is begging for us to stop and listen. I hear people talk about how hard evangelism is – that is only because we are not listening. If you want to change the world, be an impact for Christ or just make a difference; stop and listen.