Take the time to listen

I woke up at 7:50am that morning.  I should have been up at 6:30am.

I still have no idea what happened...I had set 3 alarms just to be safe, but I must have slept through them or they didn't go off that morning for some reason.

Regardless of what happened, sound check at the church I was scheduled to lead two back to back services at was at 8:00am, & the church was 25 minutes away from my house.  Even if I left my house that very moment, I still would have been late.  I jumped out of bed in a complete panic, brushed my teeth, changed out of my pajamas into the first clothes I grabbed from my closet, did my makeup in the car, & ran into the church, still halfway awake.  

I was out of it & I couldn't seem to calm down or shake the grogginess of the night's sleep.  My band & I didn't have time to do a mid-week rehearsal & so we had about an hour to get through sound check & run through our set, which included a song I hadn't played live in years.  I was anxious & worried about not playing well or something else going wrong since we had limited time before people started coming in.

By the grace of God, our sets went very well & we all had a great time.  But by the end of the morning, I was mentally exhausted from getting off on the wrong foot & worrying about playing well with such a rushed morning.  And I was still tired from all the extra hours I had worked earlier that week at a brand new job.  All I wanted to do once church was over was to pack up my things, drive home, put my pajamas back on,  & take a nap.

But then there was Jeanie.

Jeanie was an elderly member of the congregation & volunteer on the tech team.  Although I had just met her, I found her to be a little overbearing.  She liked to talk a lot, which I was having a hard time with given the morning I was having, & she had sort of reprimanded me for skipping around on the lyrics of the songs I sang, as it has stressed her out since she was running the slides for the service.  Earlier that morning in between services, she had told me she wanted to show me a song she had written & said maybe I could sing it sometime. I could tell she had really thought about showing me her song--she had the lyrics written down on the back of a piece of paper & had it all ready to go even before she asked me if I could listen to her.  I politely said, "Sure, maybe you can show me after the second service..." but with the state I was in, I knew that probably wasn't going to happen. I just wanted to go straight home after church to rest before I had to head out again later that day.

Well, after the service Jeanie waited for me & kept talking to me while I was packing up my things when I honestly didn't feel like talking to anyone.  I just didn't have the energy or patience.  I had somewhere to be later that day & was in a rush to get home so I could sleep more.  I was trying my best to be patient & kind on the outside, but inside, I was annoyed & cranky.  

When I had finished packing up my equipment & merchandise, I politely told her I wasn't going to be able to stay & listen to her...that I had somewhere to be later in the day, but that I'd be back in July & maybe I could listen to her song then.  The look on her face & the disappointment in her voice was so apparent.  I had really crushed her.  Feeling bad, I walked out the doors & headed to my car.  A few minutes passed before I stopped & realized there was no way I could go home feeling that way, knowing I made someone else so sad.  So I went back & looked for Jeanie but couldn't find her anywhere.  Had she already left?  Did she leave feeling upset?  Was I too late?

I walked outside to my car, & there she was, sitting on a bench next to the sanctuary doors with her husband.  "Jeanie," I said, "are you still able to sing for me?  I have some time & I'd really like you to show me your song if you still want to."  Her face truly lit up, eager to show me her song & to have someone listen to her.

So her husband, Jeanie, & I all walked back into the church where she sat at the piano.  She played for me a little & before long, her husband came in too.  Then she opened up to me--she used to sing all the time & had gotten her degree in music years earlier.  She told me about times she had sang in the past & her husband chimed in too--you could tell how proud of her he was.  But she had PTSD & struggled with anxiety,  & she used to make others around her nervous as a result of her nervousness.  She was very open about being self-conscious about the scar above her lip from having a cleft palate as a baby because she couldn't pronounce certain words correctly, especially when she sang, & she felt like no one would ever give her a chance or listen to her.  She hadn't had an audience in years.  

This broke my heart coming from a woman who clearly is involved in an active church.  I could only assume she meant people in her own church were brushing her off.  And here I was, fresh off the stage from leading worship for a crowd of people, & I had just done the same thing to her.  Brushed her off & told her I didn't have time to listen to her all because I was tired & because I wasn't being patient or empathetic.

In telling my close friend this story later that evening, he said something that really struck me hard.  He said that the times people need you the most are never convenient.  It's not when you are energized.  It's not when you really feel like it.  It's not when you really want to stop & listen.  It's not when you're in the mood to be there for someone.  

It's when you're tired, when you're weak, when you're in a bad mood, or when you're going through something yourself.

Let me tell you though, I was the one who was blessed by listening to Jeanie.  I realized that as much as she needed someone to listen to her & show her compassion & love, I needed to slow down & be Jesus to her.  I needed to sacrifice what I wanted & be there for someone who only wanted to be heard, to be seen, to be noticed.  She sang such a sweet song & she needed to be told & to know she is beautiful just as she is.  Her husband John certainly thought the world of her too.

Guys, this world is in a big hurry all the time.  I don't have to tell you that.  We have places to be, things to do, shows to watch, calls to make, and naps to take.  Please don't be like I was.  Please don't move so fast that you aren't willing to slow it down when someone really needs you.  Don't be selfish with your time, as I almost was & have been in the past.  Someone out there needs your shoulder, your kindness, your ear, your time.

For me, that someone was Jeanie.  I am so grateful for the lesson I learned from having met her. And I'm thankful for her sweet spirit & song.