The text from an out of touch friend came when my Friday night Bible study was rescheduled, leaving me with an unexpectedly open evening. "When might you have a minute to listen to my heartaches?" was the gist of her plea, and I knew God had shifted schedules for a reason. Over hot chocolate and sandwiches, I simply listened as one hour turned into two and the trials of her life in this season spilled forth. My own words were few yet I hope encouraging. The circumstances facing her could not be changed by our conversation; only God would be able to do so. But for those brief moments I could enter into them with her and pray for her and be with her, one heart to another.
I stayed seated during the bustling transition from Sunday School to church, my seven month old baby nestled and sleeping soundly in the carrier I wore. Lost in my own thoughts, I was startled by a grandmotherly touch on my arm. An older (yet newer) member of our volunteer training course for the crisis pregnancy center stood over me with a nondescript notebook in a trembling hand. "I have been looking for you to talk to you! I did my homework and I need to talk to you. I know I need to forgive, but my life has been so hard ... so many terrible things have happened to me. Can I read you what I wrote?"
We set up a time to meet the following evening. In the privacy and quietness of the empty church, she spilled out a harrowing tale of heartache pursuing her through childhood and into her adult years. Story after story of traumatic experiences explained the frailty and struggles I had often witnessed in her life. How little I knew of her after all these years of acquaintance! My ears were open but my words were few. Through God's Word and His Spirit she had drawn the conclusions that were right and true; I was merely a sounding board for what she already knew. Later as we said goodbye, she held a hand to her heart and said thank you. "This has helped me ... it has brought peace to my heart," she whispered. The simple act of listening, one heart to another.
"I have a scheduling conflict with our Bible study this week," she texted. "Can we meet for breakfast Saturday morning instead?" It would mean an early-morning trip to the grocery store before dropping my two sons off to their weekly class downtown, and coordinating with another friend to pick them up when done. Yet the momentum we were gaining by being consistent in meeting was too valuable to lose. Our third (of four) Bible study ladies could also join us, if her husband and son were able to come also. They would visit with my husband and children meanwhile.
After an emotional late-night meeting with another friend and some restless sleep interrupted by baby's nighttime feedings, my eyes rebelled against opening and my body against getting out of bed that day. It felt stressful, asking my family to please see that the kitchen and dining room areas were picked up and the bathroom clean by the time I returned from the store, class, and picking up our guest. But when conversation flowed around the table and topics of life and death were discussed in light of the Scriptures, and when our study went deeper and sincere questions were raised, I was reminded of the importance of this time spent studying and sharing together, one heart to another.
“Personal ministry is not about always knowing what to say. It is not about fixing everything in sight that is broken. Personal ministry is about connecting people with Christ so that they are able to think as he would have them think, desire what he says is best, and do what he calls them to do even if their circumstances never get "fixed." It involves exposing hurt, lost, and confused people to God's glory, so that they give up their pursuit of their own glory and live for his.”