The man's 51-year autobiography took more than an hour to read, and it disclosed struggles with addictions, difficult personal relationships, and career disappointments. It included accounts of success and failure, discoveries and disappointments. Mixed in were his ongoing efforts to improve a static-ridden connection with Jesus.
This level of candor in our group is the result of almost two years of weekly meetings. That's how long it has taken us to build an appropriate trust level. Only now is there a willingness to peel back the secretive layers of life and invite the responses of friends.
As this man read his story, I shook my head. Not at the nature of his self-revelations but at how little, before this reading, I really knew him and the issues he was dealing with from day to day. I'm his pastor, for crying out loud, and until this moment I've seen only the surface of his life. And I was supposed to preach to him each week? And make a difference?
As his story continued, I actually had something like a vision. I saw myself walking down a long hotel corridor (I travel a lot). I passed endless numbers of closed doors. Behind each door I could hear sounds, the kinds you hear in hotelsloud televisions, people talking, bathtubs filling with water, and other sounds I'll not identify. In the vision each sound was an indication of diverse life and activity. But here is the point. Each closed door separated me from knowing with clarity what was happening on the other side. I could only guess at what needed to be said.
The vision helped me realize that the guy telling his story had opened up the door of his room and invited the group and me in to look around.
Glimpses of their reality
This, I suspect, is one of the greater challenges ...