A podcast I listen to regularly (This American Life) recently told the story of a Texas football coach who encouraged all the parents and fans of his team to cheer for the other team. I originally thought it was going to be some monumental coaching move that would eventually amp up his own players to play harder in order to spite the sudden loss of support from their own family and friends.
But I was mistaken. This team was a Christian high school in Texas, an the other team was a local delinquent school of boys with no family life, let alone fans. So this coach asked all the parents, fans, and cheerleaders to learn the names of the opposing players and cheer them on to victory; something those boys had never known the feeling of.
This coach would quickly know national recognition. All over ESPN! The NFL Commissioner made the coach his personal guest at the Super Bowl. In all the recognition came 100's of emails and letters to the coach, but he would admit only one of them would grab his attention. A lady who is on the radio show tells her own story of seeing all the recognition of this coach and she had to email him.
She writes to him of how she is an agnostic and has rarely seen true examples of Christian love and message, but his example gives her hope that it exists. She was also very glad to see such a great model of God's love for young people.
They began a correspondence through email which shortly leads to a phone conversation that gets recorded for the radio show.
One thing to know is that a very close friend of hers had died of cancer, and she had a lot of hurt to work through. Her main concern was why God would allow this to happen, and she felt like perhaps this compassionate coach might have something to speak to her pain and hurt.
Only seconds into the phone conversation, the coach dives into a very familiar diatribe of theology and apologetics. He took next to no time to listen to her pain and hurt. He was more concerned with getting all his conversion points out there. It had completely shut her down.
She would tell the radio show host that she was basically irritated. She had not wanted to get into the details of God's existence. She wanted to really come to understand what God might have to say to her in her situation. For an entire conversation, the coach had gone into a stream of monologues about Darwin, Hitler, logic, the Big Bang and creation. He never once took a moment to listen to what she might have had to ask. He never once took a moment to listen to her pain and her hurt.
Should would tell the radio host that it was her chance to talk to a man who believes in God and get some answers to burning questions she had been struggling with, but those questions were never heard. They were questions of grief and not of God's existence vs Big Bang.
The host tries to clarify. "So he was trying to argue with you about the existence of God instead of comforting you?"
There had been times when she said she had just about to warm up to him, and that she had some part of her that HOPED he would have been able to put the 'religious message' to her in a way that made sense to her; that "deep down I really wanted to believe again."
The host wondered whether it might have just been the WAY he went about it that he'd turned her away...
She mentions that if someone could have told her why her friend died and then relate it back to God, "I probably would have responded to that better." But they never even got to that point.
The Host says, "What if its as simple as: God takes people at different times, and that doesn't mean that God doesn't have some plan for you?"
She responds, "See! That makes more sense to me than ANYTHING he ever said."
Then the radio host said, "Well that's very sad, cuz I actually don't even believe in God.
LISTENING TO: "The Long Fall Back To Earth" by Jars of Clay