Several years ago, a friend of ours called during Thanksgiving weekend and said he needed our help. He had already started driving the several hundred miles towards our home, and was really hoping he could stay with us for a while.
We told him, "Of course" and said he could stay as long as he needed.
We got the guest room ready, and waited--not really knowing how we'd find our friend once he arrived.
His arrival seemed pretty normal. He pulled up in his Texas-sized truck, wearing his usual jeans and cowboy boots. We hugged and exchanged the typical "how was your trip?" small talk. We made our way to the kitchen table, where I'm sure I offered him something to eat and drink.
There, at our kitchen table, our friend explained in a quiet voice how messed up he'd gotten. He told us that he'd checked himself out of rehab, and started driving towards Branson for help.
Now, I should tell you a couple of things here. First of all, I am keeping much of this story vague--because it is not my story to tell. The only reason I even mentioned his checking himself out of rehab is so I can BRAG on how AMAZINGLY BRAVE he is! I'm not sure I've ever been PROUDER of someone than I am of this friend, who has been sober for several years now. (I wish you could see the big goober smile on my face as I write these words! See? I'm proud.)
Second, I should tell you that our friend headed to Branson for not only our help--he had a couple of friends here that he was reaching out to. We certainly cannot take the credit for helping him. Which, is really funny that I'm even saying that--because GOD gets all the credit anyway. This story is all about God's kindness and redemption.
Now, I've given you a whole lot of background information to tell you this: The whole time our friend was staying with us, and getting his life back together, I felt this burden, this burning desire to be able to ENCOURAGE our friend...to TELL HIM just the right things that would make everything better...to COUNSEL HIM in just the way he needed to get healing.
But, guess what?
No matter HOW MUCH I prayed for God to give me the words to say to him...
No matter how many great things I thought of to tell him...
No matter how strongly I felt about certain things I wanted to ask him...
God kept telling me one thing: Be quiet.
Over and over again I felt God was telling me not to give one word of counsel, and even not to ask any leading questions. I sensed God was telling me that this was Dave's time to counsel, and Dave's turn to talk and share in this particular situation.
Oh sure, I chatted with our friend a lot. We talked every single day, and some days I even got to listen as he chose to share about his struggles. We talked about books and movies and history and the South.
I loved our daily chats. But, so many times I felt helpless towards our struggling friend. Here he was--living in our guest bedroom--and yet, I couldn't say anything or do anything to help him.
Ah. But, one day, God helped me see how I COULD help our friend...how I already WAS helping our friend: I could make him turkey sandwiches.
I'd already been feeding our friend daily, but just never thought of that as a way of helping. But, God showed me that by FEEDING our friend, I was helping to FEED his SOUL.
From that day on, I saw my meal preparations as the way that I was helping our friend recover. I was feeding his body, and his soul.
From that day on, I took great delight in piling on the turkey extra-high, as if our friend could feel my encouragement and love in those bites of turkey sandwiches. I stopped feeling helpless in staying quiet, and started finding great joy in my daily meal (and turkey sandwich!) preparations.
How about you? Do any of you find yourselves in a situation where you feel inadequate to help a friend or family member? If so, I encourage you to look for ways different than just telling or counseling.
Sometimes, now matter what words you want to share--eloquent and sensible as they may be--sometimes, words fall upon deaf ears.
Sometimes, a friend isn't ready to hear.
Or, sometimes, someone else needs to do the talking and sharing.
Sometimes, the very best thing you can do--is make a nice, thick turkey sandwich.
I sure hope the next time you are preparing a meal--for your family, or for a friend--that you remember: You're not just feeding a body; you may also be feeding a soul.
So, please be sure to pile on that turkey--extra high!