Yesterday the Lord confirmed something I have believed for a long time.
Quiet, private people have the same need and desire to be invested in, engaged, and drawn out as those who willingly share all of the thoughts and emotions rolling through them.
Quiet people can easily go unnoticed. They can disappear. And sometimes, they are flat out ignored because they quietly observe and listen rather than express every thought that comes into their heads. The sound of their voices is drowned out by the loud, passionate words and expressions of the extroverts around them. Quiet people have dreams, desires, goals, concerns, fears, strengths, talents, skills, and insecurities ... and they want to be accepted, loved, affirmed, and encouraged. Just like the rest of us.
It can be easy to give the customary "Hello" followed by a few questions about work or school, maybe a simple personal question, and when the answers are brief and lack detail and expansion, we politely smile and move on to find a more expressive person to talk to. Why?? Because it is easier. We do not have to be patient. We do not have to draw them out. We do not even have to think because the conversation is a continual stream of consciousness that never ends.
But you know what? When we are willing to give up our own wants, and time, and purposely sit next to a quiet person - man, woman, teen, or child - and ask a few meaningful, well-placed questions, we are almost always guaranteed to be rewarded with a sincere, personal, and grateful response. Usually more than personal and thoughtful than we could have imagined.
I have never shied away from quiet people, and am even secretly challenged to be the one to break the silence and find out the secrets of their hearts. But I have been guilty of assuming they do not want to talk, are annoyed with my questions, or would much rather be left alone to engage with their own thoughts instead of mine. Sometimes I boldly approach them anyway, but sometimes I do avoid them ... and have often wondered - how much did I miss?!?
Yesterday I had this choice to make with my nephew. He is a gentle and sweet young man, with a face ready to smile at the slightest provocation. He and Dennis have enjoyed a bond since the day he was born, and Dennis plows into his mind and heart without the slightest bit of hesitation. And our nephew always responds. I have never been as bold, but yesterday the Lord wanted me to be, so I obeyed. And do you know - we spent over an hour discussing friendships, politics, Scripture, end times, and the scary truth that many people who think themselves Christians will not get into heaven. A 22-year-old sat with his middle-aged aunt and willingly engaged in conversation with me! And while I was not surprised by his kindness or respect, I was amazed at how much he was willing to share - simply because I ASKED.
And then in the evening, the Lord drove His point home even further. We had just finished a wonderful dinner, met our sister's birth family, and enjoyed an old friend, when our nephew and his friend joined us. We engaged in adult conversation for a bit, and then the Lord challenged me to ask him another question: What is the greatest accomplishment in your life? If you died today, and those who knew you well stood up to testify about your life, what would they say?
His answer contained three words. But they were the most revealing three words he could have uttered. And at that moment, everyone at the table was given a glimpse into the heart of our nephew, and now ... we are accountable to pray for him, encourage him, support him, and follow up with him. Because he needs us.
I thought about him, and our conversations, all night long. I feel asleep praying for him. I woke up thinking about him. What if I had let him slip into obscurity just because he is quiet? What if I refused to draw out the depths of his thoughts and mind simply because of fear or lack of motivation? What if I had served myself because it was easy, instead of caring about the heart of my nephew? I know the Lord is sovereign and can accomplish His will in a thousand different ways that do not involve me. But yesterday He chose to use me - and I needed to obey.
And it made me wonder ... how many times have I missed an opportunity to pull out the wonderful, beautiful pieces of the heart of another because they sat quietly in a corner, observing, content to keep their thoughts and dreams to themselves ... when all I had to do,