He said to me, “I really don’t like you at all.”
Early in my ministry I was a youth pastor in a church for a few years. In this particular church I was hired as both the Youth Minister and Sports Director. This church’s Sports Director position required me to not just lead the youth ministry, but coach the church’s softball and basketball teams. I had ability and experience in these areas and I loved the two sports so I was fine with it.
What I didn’t realize was that there was a man on both the basketball and softball teams that was nursing a serious dislike for me. His name was Hank. At a certain point, I began to feel the resistance from him, but shrugged it off as his personality and left it at that…for a while. But soon, I began to suspect what seemed like clear disdain from him and began to consider approaching him to try to find out if I was reading him correctly. After all, he played on both the teams I coached. It isn’t fun to have to lead people who hate you.
But God had a better plan.
There was a conference that each pastor on the staff was going to attend except me. I was being asked to stay behind and hold up the fort. I was somewhat excited about it because I would get a chance to be “The Man” for a week. I was going to be in charge.
One day, I looked up from my desk to see a man wandering around the office area…and noticed he was lingering near my door. I continued working but kept one eye on him.
Finally he leaned into my doorway (at which time I saw it was Hank) and asked gruffly, “Can I talk to you?”
I said, “Sure,” and in my mind braced myself for a clash.
He came inside and said nothing for a few minutes. Finally he said, with his head down and shaking it from side to side, “I can’t believe I am here. I just can’t believe I’m here.”
I said nothing in response but wondered what it meant.
Then he said, “I really don’t like you at all.”
I just looked at him and tried to keep from saying what I really wanted to disgustedly say: “Then why don’t you leave?” But I didn’t say it.
Then Hank began to cry; and in the next hour unfolded why he was in my office, even though in his view, he didn’t like me.
He had discovered that his wife was having an affair and had been for some time. It all had come to a head the night before and he didn’t know what to do. The next day he learned that every pastor was away at the conference except me, and wouldn’t be back for a week, yet he was about to explode. So he did what he never thought he would have to do…come and confide in me, the man who he deemed was someone he detested.
He cried. He confessed his pain. He asked me for forgiveness for feeling about me the way he did. And I listened, sympathized and loved.
The next day he came in again with more details; and the next and the next. When the other pastors came back from convention Hank didn’t go to them with his problem. He kept coming to me.
Over the next several months Hank would call me to tell me the slightest detail about his wife and marriage. We prayed and counseled together almost every day concerning his life, marriage and family. I walked with him through his separation from his wife, his divorce and his pain. And we became the best of friends.
I can think of so many different ways it could have gone. But God had a Divine appointment for me and Hank.
He never told me why he had come to not like me. I guess it didn’t matter after all. And so I have learned:
“A soft answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger. The tongue of the wise commends knowledge, but the mouths of fools pour out folly.” — Proverbs 15:1
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