Monday, December 9, 2013

Simple Gifts #2: Space to Listen

This week we are in a deep freeze.
Outside, nothing is growing.
The weather guy said that normal snow is at a moisture ration of about nine to one,
but yesterday's snow was so fine and dry that the ratio was about 20 to one.

It's a good day to hunker down,
enjoy the sunshine that pours through our south-facing windows,
continue the battle against dirt and chaos,
and still my soul enough to listen,
both to God and to people.

It's so difficult to hold still.
To be quiet when someone is talking.
To listen with my whole heart.

I heard some advice last week about how to come alongside those who are suffering.
I wanted to add to that conversation, but there wasn't opportunity.
(I had to be still and listen).
I would have said this:
Sometimes, in a time of darkness or sorrow, certain people know just what to do.
I believe they are led by the Holy Spirit.
Different ones have different gifts, and darkness is a place where those gifts shine.

We have had friends show up at our door just to pray with us.
We didn't have to respond, which was helpful, since we couldn't.
We let them pray for us, and when they were done, they quietly left.

Two years ago, when I was twelve weeks pregnant and cherishing the mystery of an unexpected baby,
an acquaintance showed up, on a cold and snowy night,
bringing bags and boxes of toys and food (he reminded me very much of Santa Claus).
We were scraping the bottom of the barrel at the time,
and those bags of gifts, once I returned them for store credit,
meant we had presents under the tree.

But here is the gift that is the most rare,
and the hardest to ask for.
It's the gift that is needed above all others.

It's listening..

Just listening.

A few people, very few,
knew how to listen when I needed to talk.
They did not interrupt.
They did not give advice.
They did not try to cheer me up.
They let me talk until I was done, really done.

That's what I would tell my pastor,
if this was a conversation.
That in a time of suffering, or grief, or just ordinary discomfort,
be aware,
be ready to help, be willing to receive help.
All those tangible needs and provisions are always in front of us.

But what is beneath,
under the talking and the noise,
is a yearning to be heard.
Every one of us has that yearning.
And so I would say,
Be the one who has created space to listen.

This is my gift to you.
It's an Advent gift,
because it requires intentionality,
and time,
and space,
and most of all,
it requires the Presence of Jesus.

This is my prayer
on a winter day that is cold, white and icy,
in the time of year that is most dark and most busy.
"Jesus, how can I make the space
to listen with my whole heart?" 

"Why spend money on what is not bread,
and your labor on what does not satisfy?
Listen, listen to me, and eat what is good,
and your soul will delight in the richest of fare.
Give ear and come to me,
hear me, that your soul may live."
(Isaiah 55:2-3a)

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