I was a young minister. I began preaching for a small church in North Alabama. In this community there were many, many churches. I was grateful for the opportunity to serve in this congregation. I preached each week. I taught Bible classes. I began to meet with people and learn to listen to their stories.
I spent a lot of time listening. Sometimes it might be a conversation that took place on the parking lot after church. Or, it might a conversation that took place over a cup of coffee at a local coffee shop. I met with some at lunch, some in my office and others in their homes. I learned to listen. In fact, I learned that many people longed to have someone really listen to their story.
What I heard:
Many men and women are deeply wounded. So often those wounds came through their own families of origin. Perhaps they had a domineering father who was heavy handed with his wife and children. Sometimes a mother refused to draw near to her children emotionally. With other people, these wounds seemed to focus adults who portrayed a commitment to the Lord (on Sunday’s and Wednesday evenings) while living a very different lifestyle during the week. One person told me of a father, had several “emotional affairs” with women, which seem to be one of the family secrets. At the same time, he was heavily involved in the life of their church. The children (adults now) have been deeply wounded by this behavior.
Many men and women bear lingering guilt from their own sins. I heard from people who wondered if there was anyone else like them in the congregation. Sexual sin, drug use, drunkenness, stealing from work, abandoning one’s wife and children, etc. Many people wondered if they will not be forever tainted by what they have done. Others attended Sunday morning assemblies and concluded that others just didn’t seem to have any problems.
Many men and women wonder if there really is any hope for someone like themselves. Many of us might be amazed if we knew the stories of people who are in churches with them each Sunday. I remember the beautiful young woman who told my wife and me that she was called “lard bucket” (as a child) by her father because of her weight issues. One mother raised her children to deceive their father, telling them to not tell him what she bought at the store. Some grew up with families that were a mess and they, as children, spent their childhood and emotional reserves trying to keep their home together.