After speaking at events, I often get to listen to attendees as they tell me their stories. Some stories are funny, like the couple who told me that each of their five pregnancies were discovered immediately after trips to Disney World. Because my story involves only two “Disney” pregnancies, I was surprised and laughing at the same time.
Or stories can be poignant. I think of families who tell me they are invested in our ministries because they either experienced an unplanned pregnancy before marriage, or of daughters or sons who came home to tell of an unexpected pregnancy.
A while back, I was signing books and visiting with guests. For a moment, however, the line cleared. No one was around until one young man came up and asked, “Can I talk to you for a moment?” He was prominent in the community, holding a position of authority. I didn’t know what was coming next.
“Sure,” I told him. I knew, however, that at any moment more people would be coming. He would have to make it quick or our conversation would become public.
“I want you to pray for...” and he began to choke up. He was talking of his daughter. His wife had left him, and he was suddenly alone. A single father. Broken. In tears. He had difficulty getting the words out.
For those who know me, you know I’ve been where he is today. Since that trial, more than once I’ve had the opportunity to walk with men facing the pain of a spouse walking away.
We talked briefly. Signing his book, I wrote my cell number and email inside the front jacket. “Get in touch,” I told him. “We need to talk. Again.”
Within a minute or so, others were coming to the table, smiling and ready to chat. He nodded, graciously thanked me, and walked away.
This extremely short encounter taught me (again) about trials and how they build the pregnancy help community. Here’s how:
1. Let’s Be Real
At events, I tell my story of being a single father. It takes five minutes, but by tying this story into what we do in pregnancy help organizations, it has an impact. Our ability to be transparent with clients, donors, and others is vital to our success as a ministry. This doesn’t mean airing every piece of dirty laundry in our lives, but if we are real, those who need us and support us will connect and engage with us.
2. Trials Aren’t the End of the Story
People hear about my nine-plus years raising my three children and ask things like “How did you do it?” or “Did you ever get angry at God?” The answer to the first question requires a book, but the answer to the second is short: “Yes.” It’s not easy to admit, but it’s true.
Looking back, I would not want to face that situation again. But now, I can say this: Those nine years opened opportunities to reach out and help others I could not have imagined. In my situation, the trial wasn’t the end of a story, but became the beginning of a new one which now takes me places I could not have imagined.
For those of us involved in pregnancy help, our trials give us opportunities to reach into the lives of others. We see this with post-abortive women and men, with those who placed children for adoption, those who married amidst an unplanned pregnancy and with those who chose single parenting.
Trials give us insight and sound counsel for those struggling with the same things we did during our trial. Let’s remember our trials and what we learn. These times may be the prescription of hope another needs.
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3. Trials Can Make Us Listeners
I thought of myself as a decent listener before my trial. While I am far from perfect today, I am better than I was before. The reason, of course, is that once we’ve been through a challenging time, our ability to empathize goes up and we’re more likely to listen to the “whys” of someone else’s situation.
After a trial, we’re less likely to give someone a quick fix for their problem (“Trust God. He’s got this!”), and more interested in asking good questions, discerning areas of need and trying to find ways we can encourage and assist.
When encountering trials, I used to ask, “Why?” It’s a fair question and I understand the desire to find an answer. But as I grow older, my hope is that when future trials come, my question will be, “What?” As in, “What can this trial bring that can change the world around me?”
As we go forward in our mission, we can count on trials. Here’s praying these trials open doors to better reach those who seek our pregnancy help community.
And I’m praying a single dad will remember my phone number and give me a ring when he needs a listening ear.