I was having a conversation with a student this week about God. I asked if he objected to me writing about our conversation and that what we talked about may touch the heart of a person who shared our thoughts.
The topic was the terrible disaster in the Philippines and the perceived lack of God’s presence in that area.
There are no easy answers for this one and my experience has been that when you can’t see, then you can’t see.
The young man told me he stopped going to church and believing in God because his parents got divorced and all his prayers “went in the air; no one heard them.”
He told me that he cried himself to sleep every night and “this God” who was supposed to take care of him and his family offered him no comfort.
Then he turned his attention to the typhoon and began to name about eight or 10 horrific events in human history and posed the same question, “Where was God?”
The funny thing was that he initiated the conversation. He saw me and stopped me. He let me know right where he stood. He asked me why I believe in God and how I can allow myself to be so “stupid” and keep up this “untruth.”
About 15 minutes passed and he continued to tell me everything that was wrong with the Catholic Church and all organized religion.
I was getting pretty thirsty and asked him if he wanted to walk with me to the vending machine, which he agreed to do.
I had some idea where the conversation was heading so I bought some snacks for us to eat and we sat down again.
Twenty minutes passed and I said to myself, “Let him talk,” as he took a sip of his drink.
An hour had passed since he started the conversation and he finally just stopped talking, looked at me and asked me why I was still listening to him.
I replied, “Because you’re still talking.”
He told me it was my turn to respond to his “argument” and that there was nothing I could say that would be able to “prove” him wrong.
As I finished my drink and snack, I stood up and asked him if he needed a ride home. He was a bit upset by then and asked me, “Aren’t you going to argue the point with me?” I told him that I was not and pointed to a tree that was changing leaf color.
“Isn’t that pretty?” I asked him. He hesitated and said, “Yeah, I guess so.”
We walked toward the garage and I stopped at the arch and told him that I would talk with him later and to have a good night.
When I woke the next morning, I found a text message.
“Thank you, for not judging me. You’re the first person in my life that listened that long and didn’t tell me to shut up or walk away.”
I never thought to do either as I was listening to him share his point of view and the deepest parts of his life.
There are going to be times when the best course of action is keeping quiet. An opportunity to have a meaningful dialogue may not arise and any comments, suggestions or input will just escalate the problem.
Letting someone take time to think and allow the process to move on its own is one way but the best thing to do is pray and wait.
When we open our hearts to the movement of the Spirit, we need to let the Spirit move us.
Before I get involved in a conversation I always say a short prayer and ask the Spirit to guide me.
The next few weeks will bring with them a short break to spend in Thanksgiving with family and friends. There will be many stories and perhaps some revelations that may not be received well by those who surround us.
You may have to discuss some real tough topics with people, but don’t worry, pray about it and wait for the Spirit to answer you.
If we can just remember that God is in control and that no matter what happens, he is with us, we will soon see that our plans may not come to be, but God’s will surely will be fulfilled.
May you have a safe and joyous Thanksgiving.by