Monday, October 14, 2013

31 Days of Listening {to Others}

This exercise of {really} listening, and practicing it intentionally, has been eye opening.

I didn't post yesterday because we had a special out of town guest with us this weekend, and Rob ran the Chicago Marathon. I really love cheering him on from the side of the course, and get a huge rush from being one person in a sea of thousands, cheering on the athletes who have trained so hard for so long, and are trying to accomplish something of this magnitude. Watching them all run past us, pushing themselves so hard. It's inspiring (although I'll never run one, ha!). It's obviously the best when we see Rob and he sees us, and after I hand him water and hammer gel, I watch him as he runs away from us, and my heart swells with a combination of the good kind of pride, awe, love and gratefulness for who he is. God has made Rob so differently than He has made me, with gifts and abilities I'll never have, and it brings me so much joy to witness that.

I listened to those around me yesterday, and heard so many beautiful exchanges. Strangers chatted on the side of the course, introducing themselves to one another and explaining who they were there to cheer on. They asked about hometowns and previous races, and encouraged each other. There was a noticeable absence of comparison or self-centeredness. There were posters with runners' names or faces on them, with words of encouragement or love.

And I got to thinking, why can't we be like this all the time?

Hebrews 12:1-2 says "Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entagles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus...".

1 Corinthians 9:24 says "Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize."

The life of faith is referred to as a race. It requires training and preparation, and although not always necessary or guaranteed, it's certainly helpful to have encouraging voices telling us we can do it, cheering us on in the right direction, celebrating our victories with us. Reminding us that we are one member of a collective larger group that is all striving for the same thing - to finish the race well.


With this (3rd) marathon experience, I can't help but compare and contrast it to the ways that we, as Christians, interact and exchange words and ideas. Keep in mind that if we are followers of Christ, we are running the same race, eyes on the prize that is Jesus.

I'm frequently discouraged by the words of my fellow racers, though. We are all so vastly different, with a range of life experiences, wounds, losses, dreams, and questions that form the places that we live out of. We all have a great need to listen to one another, to be gentle and seek understanding and find ways to encourage each other. I also believe that we all have something to say, no matter how well formed the thought might be, which is sometimes indicative of how well we are running the race. There should be plenty of grace between us as we lovingly accept where each of our brothers and sisters are in this journey, this race that can be very hard, often lonely, and sometimes confusing. We need each other, speaking words that are life giving and energizing, but also listening quietly to one another.

I read a blog the other day (one that I really enjoy and am challenged by) that spoke from a place of arrogance... the message was "why is everyone talking about X when we should really be talking about Y?". It was a general criticism of some of the online voices of Christianity. And while the topic she was suggesting was of greatest importance is one that we should in fact be discussing right now (a social justice issue), what frustrated me was that she came across as seeming to have all the wisdom and knowledge about what we all should be talking about, first and foremost. And in one fell swoop, she discounted everything that anyone else was talking about at the moment, which might very well have caused some to feel ashamed or embarrassed. I certainly did, but only for a moment.

I love to observe and listen to what other believers are passionate about. And most of all? I love that we are often passionate about different things. When I hear about the way such-and-such cause pulls at my friend's heartstrings, and how it moves her to live differently, it inspires me. I love to celebrate the passion in my friends' lives and the way God is moving and working in them for His glory. But when we step away from celebrating the ways God has wired each of us differently, and yet has called us to all function together as One Body, made up of many parts that serve different functions, and start to chastise one another for not thinking or acting the way WE do? I cannot understand what greater good this serves. It's certainly not Biblical. It's not encouraging or uplifting, and it lacks the humility that Christ became for us, and modeled for us. I firmly believe that we are called to sharpen one another, and sometimes rebuke one another - but within a private context and in a way that is honoring.

I don't think it's a coincidence that the books I've been reading recently are (in order): "Humility", "Introverts in the Church", and "A Million Little Ways". That the topic I was prompted to choose for my 31 Days writing project was listening. I'm learning more about setting myself aside, elevating God to His appropriate place in my life, and experiencing the freedom that comes with really knowing in my heart that these things are true:

1) God is intentional, all-knowing, and full of grace
2) I was designed with great purpose for His kingdom and His glory
3) I am responsible to live out the one life He has given me, without jealousy or pride as I observe the lives He's given others to live
4) In Christ, I find mercy and grace in measures that have no end, as I constantly fall short of all that God calls me to
5) Because of the confidence I have in Christ, and therefore who I am in Him, I can celebrate and encourage others freely rather than feeling threatened by them
6) I realize that I am living in the context of two extremes: because I am found in Christ, created by the Almighty God and filled with His Spirit, nothing is impossible for me. The One True God hears my prayers, and is lovingly paying attention to me. He has planned out the days of my life and goes with me every day. He has called me to leadership, in some ways. And yet, I am one person among millions on this earth. I am a part of a very large spiritual family that is made up of many, many others who are very different from me. I am called to servanthood and bowing low and thinking of others first. I am responsible for living in peace with others.
7) God speaks to each of us, but sometimes He uses different methods or means. He speaks through each of us depending on the way He's created and wired us.
8) God always honors the efforts we make to seek Him through the discipline of listening. When we seek the Truth, we will always find it. And when we listen for Him, whether by reading His Word, observing the world around us, or listening to what others have to say, He always makes Himself known. He wants to be found by us.

If only all of life were like the Marathon yesterday - cheering one another on, honoring the hard work and training that's been happening behind the scenes for such a long amount of time, celebrating differences and enjoying the one thing that brings us all together. Sharing in the sweetness of victory when it's all over. Spending ourselves on each other. Being content to be one person in a sea of thousands.

Running the race with perseverance, eyes on the prize.

1 comment:

The Samsons said...

great post! i love the analogy of a marathon and life! :)