Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Quick to Listen, Slow to Speak: A Lesson in Helping Others Heal

This young man in the photo above began the morning at the abortion center mocking, laughing at, and angry with our team of pro-life sidewalk counselors. The center was distressingly busy -- at least fifty babies being killed that morning. We had only caustic interactions from the abortion-minded moms, with little interest in hearing of choices other than abortion. That didn't stop us from trying, of course. God's word has a way of permeating the hardest of hearts and maybe it would make a difference at some time in the recipient's life, if not this day.

But the angry young man got tired of listening to us, and moved to the far side of the center lot, partially shielded by trees. Sherry, our Monroe HELP RV nurse, followed him to the edge of the property. He lit a cigarette while waiting for the woman he brought to have an abortion. Occasionally he yelled at us for being "judgmental."

Sherry sat down on the hot sidewalk in the blistering 90 degree sunlight, and began to share the truth of God's word regarding babies, motherhood, and the sanctity of life. She told him what it meant to have a true relationship with God. Then she asked him to tell her his story, why he was so angry at God, because clearly, he was.

Sherry sat on that hot sidewalk in the blazing sun for forty minutes, listening. The young man had had a tragic life. Premature from an unsuccessful abortion, he said he would have been better off had the abortion worked! His biological family was terribly dysfunctional. One of his sisters was raped by his biological father. He was shuttled about in the foster care system with a double digit number of unsuccessful placements. One foster father beat him.  Finally, at age eleven, he was adopted by an "extreme Christian family." The mother beat him. Sherry pointed out that a person who truly knew and loved Jesus would never have done that. Many people call themselves Christians, but then their lives do not reflect that commitment.

The young man said he himself became a believer at age eleven. He cried out to God to rescue him from his horrific life. Rather than rescue, he was sent to a family that beat him.
"Where was God?" he asked Sherry, "He could have rescued me. Why didn't he?"

I paced along the street, as I always do, calling out to women as they leave their cars and enter the clinic. But I kept wandering back near Sherry. I wanted to hear her answer. I couldn't hear her words, but I could hear her tone. Gentle, filled with love and compassion. I also saw her tears. The young man's angry expression was slowly melting away. He was listening. Intently. The pain of what he had endured was written on his countenance, but I saw an eager yearning as well. He WANTED God to be what he had hoped for as a young boy.

I returned near Sherry's side. Her voice often broke with emotion. The young man didn't come near, but leaned forward, and sat on the steps with eyes riveted on Sherry. Then Sherry noticed I had our booklet, "Healing the Hurt" in my hand. I had pulled it out of my pack to give to the young man. She asked me if I had something for him.

"I do," I said, speaking to the troubled man. "This booklet may help the young lady you brought today. Many women feel great remorse and regret after an abortion. Sherry's number is on this, and you can call her, or your friend can call her if you want to talk more. I want you to know I have been listening to your story.  I feel very sad for what you endured. I am so sorry. May we pray with you?"

He came to us, and took the booklet from me. Then the three of us held hands in a circle, and I prayed. His head was bowed, eyes closed, and he squeezed both Sherry and my hands. We finished praying. He thanked us and hugged both of us. The anger had completely melted away. I was shocked to see kindness, alongside anguish in his eyes.

As he walked away, I called, "Please remember. Don't lose the value of the message because of the sinfulness of the messengers."

His question is the most often cited and least easy to answer. Why does an all-powerful God who could stop every evil occurrence allow evil to persist? While Sherry was answering the young man, Daniel Parks (Cities4Life) director and I were having the same discussion. It is not an easy question to answer. It certainly cannot be answered in the fifteen seconds we usually have to convince women not to abort.

However, Sherry did everything right. I have no doubt that young man was changed from his interaction with her. For one thing, he saw someone who loves Jesus, who has had monumental struggles and questions herself, and who enveloped him in gentle compassion and kindness. Most importantly, she listened. She heard his story, and she validated his anger, his disappointment, and his sense of hopelessness and despair as a helpless child subjected to evil.

I can learn much from Sherry. I was grateful to be able to hover near, hear her tone, see her tears, soak in the warmth of her love (along with the hot sun), and watch a tormented young men unburden himself of a little of his pain. It is the picture of Jesus who above all else, cared for others.

Sometimes, we are not there on the sidewalks of the abortion center for just the mamas and the babies.

James 1:19 

Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger;

The way of a fool is right in his own eyes, but a wise man listens to advice.

If one gives an answer before he hears, it is his folly and shame.

Cease to hear instruction, my son, and you will stray from the words of knowledge.

My son, be attentive to my wisdom; incline your ear to my understanding, that you may keep discretion, and your lips may guard knowledge. For the lips of a forbidden woman drip honey, and her speech is smoother than oil, but in the end she is bitter as wormwood, sharp as a two-edged sword. Her feet go down to death; her steps follow the path to Sheol; ...

Where there is no guidance, a people falls, but in an abundance of counselors there is safety.


  1. What a beautiful and poignant story. We all need love...

    1. Thank you. It was touching, and happens all the time in this ministry. It is first and foremost a ministry of showing others how immeasurably we are loved by God.