I love it when I find examples of how a pastor is able to sift through a person's story and present the hope of the gospel. Here is one such example from "The Briarpatch Gospel".
He wasted no time before launching into a profanity-laced assault on all things religious, the gist of which was something like this: “I hate God. He’s never done a single thing for me.”
Okay. This is going to be fun. I figured some of his aggression came from the fact that he was on his fourth or fifth whiskey and Coke. “Liquid courage,” as they say. But I knew there was some deep pain beneath the anger.
I turned on my stool to face him, ordered myself a drink, and settled in for what promised to be a long conversation. “Tell me more,” I invited. “I can take it, and I’m pretty sure God can too.”
For the next hour, Dan dominated the conversation as he recounted not knowing his father and being raised by a mother who was loveless and neglectful. She brought into their home countless boyfriends who would beat her, as well as Dan and his younger sister.
When he was old enough, he moved out and found his way to Los Angeles, where he got involved in the pornography industry. He was successful enough to earn a living and support many destructive habits. Involvement in that industry was not conducive to healthy, long-term relationships, so he burned through a string of girlfriends and countless one-night stands.
I kept listening. He kept talking and ordering more drinks. It was one of the saddest stories I had ever heard, and I had the sense that he had never told it to anyone before. I thought it could not get any worse.
I was wrong.
“So what brings you to Decatur?” His story had caught up to the present, and honestly, I was hoping my question would change the subject.
“I’m here to testify in my mother’s murder trial.” He pointed across the square in the general direction of the county courthouse.
My jaw dropped and I began to think, Yeah, I can see why you’re not God’s biggest fan.
“My mother didn’t like my sister’s boyfriend,” he continued. “He would beat my sister, and so my mom got a gun and went and shot him dead."
I was done. Exhausted. We sat in silence for a few minutes, staring into our respective drinks.
He raised his whiskey and Coke to his mouth and muttered into the glass, “So you’ll excuse me if I think God is full of it.”
“You know what I think?” I finally said, not waiting for an answer. “I think you’ve been deserted and neglected by those who should have loved and protected you. Your father had no right to leave. That’s not what fathers are supposed to do. Sure, your mother had it bad, but she had a responsibility to protect you and your sister. She let you down. And correct me if I am wrong, but by the way you’re tossing down so much whiskey, beginning at four in the afternoon, I think you’re an alcoholic. You’re looking for meaning and belonging in an industry and illicit relationships that are only emaciating your soul. But deep down, beneath the porn and drugs and abuse and alcohol, your real problem is that you don’t think anyone can love you, not even God. You don’t think God could possibly love someone like you.”
He sat there, head slumped, long enough for the tears to reach his chin. Raising his eyes, he looked at me and said, “You know, you’re right.” “Dan, the truth is, if God can’t love you, then there’s no hope for me either. A lot of bad stuff has happened to you, but you’ve made some pretty bad decisions yourself. The good news is that none of that disqualifies you for God’s affection. Jesus came for broken and stupid people just like you and me. And it’s not fair for us to blame God for everything if we are going to purposely shut him out of our lives. When you sober up a bit and get back to LA tomorrow, I want you to call a friend of mine.”
Wheeler, Shayne (2013-02-18). The Briarpatch Gospel: Fearlessly Following Jesus into the Thorny Places (pp. 202-206). Tyndale House Publishers. Kindle Edition.