Listen With Your Eyes Closed

“What led you to becoming a reverend?”  Is a question I get asked a lot.  Many people assume I grew up in the church, had always wanted to speak the word of God or something like that.  Honestly, it kind of just came to me.

About 20 some years ago one of my good friends came to me for advice.  He was considering asking his girlfriend to marry him.  He really wanted my advice and my opinion of what he should do.  I honestly thought they were too young and he wasn’t mature enough to get married, but I didn’t tell him that.  Instead I just talked with him, asked him questions and by the end of our conversation he had realized through his own words that he wasn’t ready for that type of commitment and it would have killed their relationship and friendship.

They ended up breaking up when she went away to school but over all these years they have remained friends.  I don’t think this would have happened if he had tried to marry her.  I don’t think she would have stayed friends because of the change in value of the relationship.  But this was one of my first instances of people coming to me for this type of advice.

Leave Your Baggage Here

For some reason people just sought me out for random things.  I trained my friend’s dog while listening to his struggle with drugs and addiction.  I listened to my friend talk about her addiction to sex and how she had major abandonment issues.  I listened to a classmate who had thrown herself down a flight of stairs because she thought she was pregnant and her boyfriend had left her.  Basically, I just listened and was there for them.  I thought I was just being a good friend, but apparently there is more to it.

As far as becoming a reverend and eventually starting this little church and blog, I always just had this need and desire to help people.  I remember when I was about 10 or 11 years old I was in Little League.  I was a pitcher and I was having a very bad day on the mound.  I ended up hitting a batter, it was my friend J.P.  I hit him hard in the middle of the back and it looked like it hurt bad!  He hit the ground and my first instinct was to see if he was okay.  But in sports we were always taught to be tough and to not show weakness.  So I stayed on the mound and tried to act like it didn’t bother me, but it did.

As he walked to first base I just gave him a nod to let him know it wasn’t intentional and he slightly raised his hand to let me know he was okay and that we are all good.  Later that night I remember my parents discussing this incident after I had gone upstairs to bed.  They talked about how they thought I had wanted to see if he was okay.  I like that they found this to be a good trait and not a weakness as a “man” or as an athlete who should only be thinking about the win.  This is when I really learned about empathy.

The whole reason I enjoy being Reverend Jim is because of empathy.  Feeling for others and putting yourself in their shoes is something that we all need to do.  Also I choose to see the positive in people.  This isn’t as easy as it seems!  Some of my friends are not the best people.  But I know they need me as much as I need them.  This is also why I needed to start this church.  There are so many people who feel they don’t have a place or that nobody listens to them.  Well, I do listen.

My best friend and one of the closest relationships I have ever had in my life, well she committed suicide several years ago.  I had experienced loss before, but nothing like this.  Part of me knew it was inevitable but I never wanted to admit that it would actually ever happen.  I blamed myself for years, and honestly still find myself doing this to this day, for not being there.  I blamed myself for not just checking in on her.  But looking back, she avoided me.  She distanced herself from me.  I was too close to see what was really going on.  This is when I started to understand what listening really was.

When I would listen to her, I always looked for the clue, the clue that would let me know if she was feeling good or bad or whatever.  I would pick out specifics to use against her later.  This wasn’t listening.  This was me fighting a losing battle.  I knew that she would leave me some day.  She was not meant to last as long as some of us.  I really hope to see her again someday on some other plane.  This is what taught me what listening really is.

Before she died I had actually written a song about our relationship, it was about listening.  Even though I did it wrong back then the lyrics were more right than I ever could have been.

“As heaven speaks gently, right in my ear.  She’s telling me all those things I’ve always wanted to hear.  So I listen with my eyes closed, I’ll tell you what I see.  All these pictures in my mind look like memories of you and me.”

I am what I am because of my experiences.  I’ve loved, I’ve lost, I’ve won and I’ve failed over and over again.  But I am human, I am someone who honestly loves life, people, relationships and so much more.  I just want people to have the best life they are capable of having.  And to help others makes me feel good.  I am not some enlightened guru, I’m just a guy who changed my priorities one day and wanted to make a difference.  Like Gandhi said, “become the change you wish to see in the world.” and for me, it really was that simple.

Thanks for reading.

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