Sitting in the front row of his Counseling Skills class, Wouter listened intently to his professor while she explained the concept of Emphatic Counseling. Simply stated this type of counseling is done by listening intentionally with empathy and allowing the client to explore his or her emotional state without a lot of dialogue or interruption from the counselor.
Interesting concept… Theories are amazing…
At the end of the lecture, the Professor told everyone that the following day’s class would be cancelled. Thus, during the meeting time, each student should go out into the city, find a coffee shop or café and engage someone in conversation using the Emphatic approach.
Needless to say, Wouter was not eager to complete this assignment. For my husband, conversing with people is easy. However, striking up a conversation with total strangers is not his cup of coffee.
Nevertheless, when the next day rolled around he reluctantly headed to a shop near campus.
“Lord, lead me to someone I can have a meaningful conversation with.”
He walked into Cup o’ Joe’s and saw an older couple sitting at a table by the window enjoying hot coffee. Beside them was an infant peacefully sleeping in his car seat. The couple conversed quietly, often gazing at the baby and gently rocking the car seat.
Wouter ordered his coffee, light and sweet, and took a seat near the couple.
“How old is your baby?” he asked.
“Just 6 months,” they responded.
“Wow,” Wouter said, “What a great sleeper! It’s hard to believe he can sleep through all this noise. My son, Makaio, always had a hard time sleeping, even when everything was perfectly quiet.”
After a few similar exchanges, the conversation went deeper.
The couple confessed that, actually, the baby was not their own. He was their grandchild. Their daughter’s son. She was at work and they were caring for him.
This is the story they shared with my husband: a story they had never before told anyone outside of their immediate family.
“Our daughter was raped last year when she was just 13 years old. She was vaguely acquainted with the guy who raped her. He was just 16 then and is now in prison. Our daughter kept her pregnancy a secret from us and we didn’t notice because she didn’t start showing until she was five months along. She’s a very small girl. Still we doubted our hunch because we were afraid it might be true. Eventually though, it became more obvious and we confronted her. It was then that she told us what happened to her. We were devastated…shocked…angry and sad…all at once. We got her to a doctor right away. The first thing he asked was if we wanted to abort the baby! Can you believe that? Six months along and they wanted her to abort her baby! Perhaps she would have said yes if we hadn’t been there. Who knows. Maybe, if we would have known earlier, we may have encouraged her to have that abortion. But how could we abort a baby that was already six months developed? God had a plan. He wanted this baby to live. So, we encouraged her to have the baby and told her we would help her raise him.”
They went on.
“Sometimes we feel such discouragement and shame because of the way this baby was conceived and we want to hide the truth about his conception. We feel like we’ve failed our daughter. She is still so young. She has no clue what raising a child is all about. She wants her life, her friends, her parties… She doesn’t get it. She’s only 15. We feel like horrible parents because somehow we didn’t protect her from this. But we love this baby and we are committed to him. We won’t ever let anything happen to him.”
Astounded by what he was hearing, my husband sat in silence praying for them as they shared a story that had literally altered the course of their lives.
When they finished unloading their burdens, Wouter was able to express the thoughts that God had impressed on his heart while he was listening to them.
“I can see that these wounds are still open and raw. God wants you to go back and work through everything you’ve felt and experienced during this time. He is with you. He wants to heal the past and bring hope into the picture. He wants to redeem your family, your daughter’s future and this baby’s future too. Your daughter needs to know that you love her and that she is forgiven. She has to know that you don’t feel ashamed of her or disappointed by her actions; that she has a chance to start over. Strengthen her and affirm her in this confusing and difficult season of her life. She needs to feel loved in spite of all of this. You two, as grandparents and essentially as guardians of this baby, have the amazing privilege of raising a child born in controversy. You’ve become a voice for the voiceless! An advocate for life! There are millions of people who want babies conceived in rape aborted! But you chose to give this beautiful baby life. You now have a platform to stand on and the authority to speak out against abortion. God is in this. This story doesn’t end with shame. It’s a victory; a story of forgiveness, restoration, redemption…hope. One day this child may stand before a crowd as an advocate for life and say, “Although I was conceived by rape, I am not a mistake! God had a plan for my life.” Who knows, this child could change the world!” Never underestimate the powerful potential of a child born in controversy. Jesus is the perfect example.”
The grandmother looked directly in my husband’s eyes and with hope in her voice she said, “I have never thought of it like that. Thank you.”
They all shook hands and parted company…
They never even exchanged names.
Why am I blogging about this?
Because I am convicted.
When God tugs on my heart and calls me to leave my little comfort zone, I am so full of excuses as to why I can’t.
Can I be honest?
If this was my assignment, I probably would’ve went to Starbuck’s, grabbed a coffee and hid behind a newspaper. Perhaps I would’ve glanced around from time to time carefully avoiding eye contact with my fellow coffee drinkers lest I get into an uncomfortable conversation. Then, I would’ve told my teacher that no one seemed interested in chatting.
Better yet, I probably would’ve said, ” Ugh, can you believe it? I tried to talk to so many people but everyone’s got their headphones on or their laptops open. Media is killing people’s desire to connect and engage in meaningful conversations…”
Yup…and that’s what I would’ve written my paper about.
It’s title? “Why Connect to Humans when you can Connect to the Internet?”
Through my husband’s experience, I’ve realized that hurting people are all around us. And many of them are trapped by life’s disappointments and hardships. They need healing, they need a word of encouragement, they need a new perspective on their trials. Ultimately, they need a touch from God!
Yes. I am a Christian. That is my strength in this life. I should be living like I have everything to give to this hurting world because of the inexhaustible resource of God within me. As a Christian or “little Christ” I am called to touch a hurting world with the love of God.
It’s a privilege.
But I act like it’s a burden.
What about you?
Have you been challenged to leave your comfort zone lately?
It’s never too late to obey.
Someone’s life may be touched by the words you speak!