Although most people see me as very friendly and outgoing, I’m actually rather shy. I enjoy my own company and being alone. I like to think.
When I was 19, I went to a Bill Gothard seminar, and he said that you ought to ask questions about other people if you had trouble talking. So I started thinking about general questions I could ask (I think Bill actually gave a list you could use). Bill said that you will never lack for conversation if you do that because everyone loves to talk about themselves. I found that is generally true!
Over the years, I’ve developed the ability to ask questions and discovered that as I asked people to share about themselves, several things happened to me. Initially, I became more insightful about people’s spiritual needs. Often allowed me to ask better questions that let me get below the surface of a person’s life. In turn, that helped me to care about people more deeply. Finally, that led to me being able to pray better for them, and also to offer more helpful words of advice or encouragment.
Starting in my 20s, I had several long-term relationships with people who were in intensive counseling for various issues, usually including depression. During these relationships, I came to realize that people who are having emotional problems have often cut themselves off from many of friends and relatives, or have been ostracized because people don’t know how to handle their difficult issues.
Furthermore, I also came to realize that a counselor is not enough to help a person heal. People need friends who can also listen and still love them when they have heard everything that is inside. I’ve had a chance to be one of those people and the privilege to see women heal and go on to have ministries to others (I’d love to tell some of their stories but would have to ask permission).
Not everyone needs lay counseling, but most of us do need someone to listen to us and hear our heart. Mothers have a chance to hear the heart of their children every day. Usually, it doesn’t even require asking many questions. Children have a tendency to spill out what they are thinking or feeling. We may need to work harder to hear our spouse, or a neighbor, a parent or a friend. We may need to be willing to be interrupted, to put our tasks on hold for a while, to pay attention, to listen to the same story once again, and yet again to ask questions.