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This post is the sixteenth in a series, “Lessons from my Father, Lewis Marler,” who lived from 1921-1998.

One man had rough, calloused hands from his construction work.  He cussed and sometimes wasn’t kind in the way he spoke to his wife.  He thought religion was for sissies.

Another was a successful businessman who lived in a large, comfortable home with his wife and three children.  He drove a nice car, and they went on impressive vacations.  He believed God was something people used as a crutch to get through life.

And there was the high school football coach and teacher in a nearby community.  When he was a boy, a local minister had embarrassed his father in front of the entire church by calling out his name in a worship service for a personal indiscretion.  This coach had vowed never to darken the door of another church.

All of these men believed that a connection with God was for other people.  They didn’t stop their wives or children from going to church, but you better not bring it up to them unless you wanted a sermon of a different kind.

And yet my father had a special way of relating to each one of them. He would seek them out at community ball games and use non-religious, common language they understood.  He would find them in a local coffee shop, or drop by their work or home at a time when impromptu visits were acceptable.

Each would expect him to lecture or “preach” to them.  But they were always surprised.

His main goal was to become a friend, to earn trust, and to set his own agenda aside.

During my father’s fifty years of ministry, these three men and hundreds more like them, would eventually be the ones asking him the deeper questions of life.

And he would respond with gentle, non-judgmental, caring answers.

Some would eventually find a connection to God, others never did.  But regardless of their response, he would meet them where they were, and remain their friend.

So now, when I meet people from different backgrounds, or people with different religions, or persons with no faith at all; it seems natural for me to look for common ground.

My father taught me how to meet people where they are, to be their friend, and to put my own agenda aside.

What a gift.

My father taught me so.

***

Have you ever been on the receiving end of such a relationship?

  1. What was it like?
  2. Why did it surprise you?
  3. How were you changed?

Would you share in the comments below?

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