2 Timothy 2:14-19
Since the pandemic started, I’ve been trying to become a better listener. Listening sounds easy—especially when you intend to do it. But slowing down long enough to hear, and inviting someone to probe their thoughts further without rushing in to commiserate, share, comfort or absolve, is really hard for me.
Paul warns believers not to wrangle over theological differences, which does no good but only ruins those who are listening (v. 14). In my secularized urban world, his call to avoid profane chatter (v. 16) sounds like an appeal to listen meaningfully so people have opportunities to connect and grow.
In a Lenten small group, I watched another person listen the way I wish I could. The result was magic. With the help of careful listening, another person developed an insight that enriched me. He started explaining that sometimes he felt like he was “on God” and sometimes he felt he was “in God.” “On God” days are those in which you feel you can’t do anything right. You eat too much sugar, snap at your partner, miss a work deadline. Those days you’re just praying to be carried on God’s shoulders through the day until you can be dropped into bed at the end of it. “In God” days are those in which you feel yourself integrated into the abundance God offers. You sense God’s strength sustaining you, allowing you to summon the patience you need for your family, enlivening you to pour a cup of herbal tea and fry yourself an egg, helping you put the words onto the screen and then press send.
These metaphors have served me many times since that church member shared them. Had I rushed to fill the initial silence, rather than giving his idea time to unfurl, the other group members and I would never have received his gift.
What helps you listen well?
God who hears us, teach us how to hear you when others speak their truth. Amen.