I was reflecting today on listening. I met a really interesting fellow yesterday at lunch. He made the totally unexpected move of talking to me at the local Pho shop. We had no real “reason” to be talking, just happened to be in the same place at the same time and discovered we both had an interest in religion and philosophy.
How often do we pass up on opportunities to meet people. I, for one, am a Seattlite, and while my better judgment, faith, and (frankly) job all encourage me to be outgoing, it’s tough. That NW reserve says “Son, don’t you know it’s impolite to interrupt other people.” Nonsense, but it’s how I was raised.
It may be entrenched in the NW, but I’ve found it to be pretty common around the country. Talking to strangers is rare and you especially avoid anything “dangerous” like politics or religion. I think there’s a whole country of people out there that need to be listened to; not so their problems can be fixed (though sometimes that’s a nice bonus), not so that you can become friends (ditto), not so that the world can become a better place; but because we were made to be heard, and seen, and appreciated. Humans are works of art, and no work of art is completed until it is shared.
People often complain about the invisibility of God, but God’s image and likeness is all around us. We have very good pictures, though each one is unique take on the original. (One friend comes to mind who’s definitely cubist.)
I think this is one of the most valuable things that Christians can do: listen to people with open ears.
Jesus said, “The harvest is plentiful, but the labourers are few.”
So few people are listening. So few people are quiet enough to let people say what they need to say, to let them discover themselves. It takes invitation. It takes helping people open up and drawing them out. It takes being safe and being present.
I try not to judge, but I will in this. Being a Christian for the rewards is not right. It is not something I do for the benefit of heaven or salvation or joy or grace. It’s something I do because it needs to be done. The world needs more listeners. And a few other things besides, but that should come from listening to God as God speaks through people.
I think we’ll be much better off when the church is about something getting done instead of people getting something.
Jerry Garcia once said, “Somebody has to do something, and it’s just incredibly pathetic that it has to be us.” Now Jerry is not Jesus, but he has a real sharp way of saying this. And maybe we need to hear it that way. The world is not as we would have it be and it can be terribly daunting to think about fixing it, but I invite you to take this simple step.
Listen. Meet. See the images of God around you.