When I met Malcom Saturday morning, I recognized him immediately.  He looked exactly like my grandson had looked when he was 13.  Without telling him why I was drawn to him, I sat beside Malcom and started a conversation.  He was shy and withdrawn like all 13-year-old young men; yet within minutes Malcom  was confiding in me his deepest hurt.  Our casual conversation suddenly turned quiet as I processed his concerns.  At 13 he was grateful that the church was his one refuge from the hurt.

I told him how much he looked like my grandson.  “Would you like to see what you will look like at 19?”  I showed him the picture and he immediately recognized himself.  “Show my dad,” he said. 

During this week, as I’ve processed the event, I’ve been amazed that this young man was willing to confide in me–a friendly stranger–his deepest concern.  Additionally, I realized that I almost missed the significance of this holy time.  For a moment, the Lord allowed me to share a pressing need from the heart of a young man.   It was so ordinary, so common place that I nearly missed the significance of that event.

  Also, I was once again struck with the similarities between a junior-high-youth and our members who are mentally challenged.  As ministers in this important population, we hold their hope, concerns, fears and desires in our hands and hearts.  This is a treasured trust that we must never discount or hold lightly.  The problem may be that our members usually share their hurts at an off-moment when we least expect holiness to invade our reality.  Here are some clues that someone–the person may or may not be mentally challenged–has shared a holy treasure with you.   

  1. Holy moments will almost always be interspersed into a casual, playful time.
  2. The person’s facial expressions will suddenly become taunt and drawn.
  3. Without warning, the person’s speech patterns will be tightly strained.
  4. You are left without any comeback or response.
  5. For a brief moment, you will feel as though someone has hit you in the stomach.
  6. Your first thought is Oh, God, help me.

Once this rare time is recognized there are several things that you can do.

  1. Let the person know that you have heard her. 
  2. A simple, “I’m sorry” could be our best response.
  3. Touch the person’s hand gently.  Then release it.
  4. Don’t make too much over the issue; but ask questions that aren’t too probing.
  5. Questions will give the person the opportunity to either drop the issue or delve more deeply.
  6. Remember it is up to the person who has shared to allow you to go more deeply into her hurts.
  7. Don’t pressure or push for more information.
  8. Proceed quietly and calmly but show sincere concern.
  9. Don’t ever, ever, ever discount the hurt. 
  10. Even if you believe this is a trivial issue, the person who has shared is hurting; and he doesn’t need me  to come up with pat answers or jovial antidotes.
  11. Allow God to work through you even in your silence.

Remember that we now hold a holy part of this person’s life.  We have been given a magnificent treasure that is precious in God’s sight and we now have a responsibility to pray for this person–perhaps for the rest of our lives.  Holy moments elicit holy responsibilities.