Friday, April 3, 2009

Maybe I feel well-listened to. Or maybe because I process thoughts and emotions internally, I don’t feel as deep of a need to be heard. Or maybe I’m just more emotionally healthy than some people. But it is hard for me to understand how listening seems to have such a huge impact on people.

I often hear people jokingly thank me for being their therapist, or say they should pay me for listening and helping them think and process. All the while, I’m thinking: “Really? I’m just sitting here listening, mumbling a periodic, ‘mm-hmm’, and asking a well-intentioned question when appropriate”. And yet people seem to have amazing revelations, insight, and emotional break-throughs as they talk at me. I say this with a slight hint of sarcasm, as I do realize that being heard is very important. But it always surprises me that such a seemingly minor act can seem to have such a huge impact on people. It makes me feel lazy, quite honestly, when “doing ministry” or “being a good friend”. I feel like I should be offering advice, or pointing out faulty thinking, or saying lots of wise words. And there are moments that those come and prove helpful, but more often than not just sitting and letting someone vent or rant or think out loud gets me an odd amount of thanks, in my opinion.

I mention it because I went out last night, prepared through prayer, to speak Spirit-filled words, and proclaim God boldly and have great, deep, intelligent conversations with people. It was a fairly quiet night, and I found myself already feeling cowardly as I hit the pavement, no longer ready to be bold. I quickly felt unusable, a little bit hopeless, and disappointed in my lack of courage. Because I tend to feel like, while it’s good to be a friend and just love people, that without verbalizing the gospel and driving home the importance of faith in Christ and idea of eternity without God, that it’s not worth much. I think in fear of proclaiming Christ that I fall to “walking the walk” without ever “talking the talk”. But people need to hear the truth and explanation of what makes the walk. And though listening is often strategic, it can also be my safety net. My way to walk without talking.

I ended up spending most of my night talking to my friend Nigel, who I’ve spoken with many times before. Last time I saw him it was a discussion about his belief in God, leading us to debate on the issue of Jesus and just one God. He believes in Jesus, but thinks that others can believe whatever they want and it be okay. So there were some theology issues we had to work through. Last night he was more intoxicated than I’ve ever seen him, and his first admission to me was about how he loves God, but he can’t stop drinking beer. Which easily lent us to the conversation of why he depends on the bottle…which then led to stories and tears…and more tears…and poetry he’s written and jokes and laughter and more tears and lessons learned, etc…

By the time we were done talking, he’d told me that I was the most beautiful person he’d ever met because of much more than physical appearance, but because of my hope, peace, gentleness, etc…and that he was so happy he’d met me. And he then proceeded to tell several people how I just listened to him and how I made him cry and basically went on about our conversation in a way that seemed nearly crazy to me. Of course I valued every word he said and greatly appreciated his encouragement. It just surprised me how moved he seemed by simply talking to this quiet, short little blonde girl as he looked down on me from his 6'8' frame! But apparently, at times, just listening and engaging in patient conversation can minister to someone just as much as our wise words can. In the last two weeks, I've experienced both ends.

Of course, many other great conversations took place after bible study. Krista talked to an older, homeless, cocaine addict about Jesus, and Tessa talked to a guy we'd never met before about the bible and Jesus as Son of God. He had a viewpoint I've heard many times there, about parts of the bible being true and Jesus being a good person, without believing him to be divine. I got to interact some with the conversation, but he and Tessa had a good, intellectual dialogue about some of his disbeliefs, and he assured us he'd return to hang out again.

One other exciting part of our evening was stopping by a building that is for lease that is perfect and in the perfect location for something we would want to use. Please pray that God leads us to the building he wants us to have when he wants us to have it to further his purposes.

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