If I was Paul or if I had anything to do with the writings in the New Testament, I would have added a whole lot of extra gifts to the line up of spiritual gifts. I am one of those people who truly believes we have all been gifted by God with some talent, whether we choose to exercise it or not and somehow nine gifts just doesn’t cover all the wonderful creativity and God given talents I have seen displayed by people all over the world. God truly has an amazing, beautiful mind and His ways are… well, amazingly higher and mysterious.
There are many learned talents out there and there are many God given talents carved within us probably before birth. I find that the talent of listening is one I particularly need. Most people tend to lean towards the most popular talents like singing, speaking, healing, prophesying, and the list goes on. But what about the talents that will require us to spend time with the unwanted? Could you see yourself doing that which would demand your time and focus on someone that’s annoying, ornery, hateful, and just plain ugly? Somehow I can hear crickets chirping…
I have to confess, I have a hard time listening to people at times. I don’t necessarily enjoy having to sit for long periods of time listening to some lost soul telling me their life story in hopes that at the end of their spill I can give them an antidote for whatever ails them. Is hard to sit through painful conversations or to deal with people who just don’t seem to be able to get over their past or get on with their lives after some climactic event. How compassionate does that sound, for a minister’s wife? I’m just being honest.
Sometimes I don’t have the patience or the stamina to hear the same stories over and over again. So what do I do? I tune out! Don’t take me wrong, I don’t go away and ignore needy people. I sit there and look at them and although thoughts of the lasagna I’m supposed to be baking in an hour float in and out of my mind, I make a great effort to give my undivided attention.
I know this all sounds very out of character for a woman in a leadership position, but hear me out; some of us just aren’t gifted enough to sit through the soap operas that many people go through in life. I want to though, I really do. I so want to be that person who listens unconditionally and with utmost patience. I pray that God will make me that person and that He will fill my heart and soul with nothing but compassion for people who do not have it all together…People like me.
Maybe that’s the problem…I see too much of me in the stories I hear. Or maybe the problem is that I don’t have the answers they need and all I can do is hurt for them. It is very hard to listen to a young girl tell you about the sexual abuse she has been enduring by her own father and not feel a part of you bleed inside. It is equally hard to listen to a close friend tell you she is leaving her husband and children because she has fallen in love with another woman…How do I listen without judging and continue to love like Christ?
I want God to bless me with the gift of listening. Not for the sake of simply hearing stories, but for the purpose of encouraging and learning. I’m pretty sure every story has a unique twist that undoubtedly could impart some wisdom or warning to me as a human. I need to hear what God wants to say to me through people, and if I casually listen I may miss the message. How simple and yet complicated is this business of listening?!? In one hand it annoys me to no end while on the other hand I desperately seek for ways to understand what I am being told as if an ancient secret was waiting for me to decipher it.
Listening is an art and a gift, and for some, listening is an unwanted most do!
Barbara Brown Taylor in her book, Leaving Church makes a statement that resonates with me and one I want to share with you;
“When I went home at night, I drove past homeless people pushing their grocery carts down empty streets, and hospitals with all their windows lit. I carried with me all the stories I had heard that day, from the young woman who had just discovered that the baby she carried inside of her was deformed to the old man who had just lost his wife of fifty-seven years. I knew that I would hear more such stories the next day, and the day after that, with no healing power but the power of listening at my command.”
Some times we are given great insight into people’s lives through spiritual discernment, but sometimes we are given nothing. I’m learning as I sit and listen to people, that though I may not always know what to say, I can always pray for them. Perhaps God doesn’t want me to say a thing at all. Could it be that God strategically placed you and me in the path of someone who just needs to be hard? When we listen, we plant a seed, then God takes over and completes the work.