When life comes at us sideways and we are upended, often if we are blessed with good people around us, we will hear “Let me know if there is anything I can do to help” or “How can I help?” The challenge we face at that point is that we often don’t know how to answer or what we most need at any given point. In that case we may say “I’ll let you know if I think of anything”. But how often do we call them back?
When we are trying to reorient ourselves to something unexpected or difficult we may not truly know how to answer that despite our awareness of the sincerity of the person asking. Our minds are in overdrive or totally numb or we are in so much pain that making it from one moment to the next uses most of our energy. Our world feels very small and cramped and we aren’t sure if the person asking can imagine our struggle to answer the question.
It happens routinely in the midst of loss when those around us feel a sense of helplessness of how to help ease the pain of someone. It’s even harder when we don’t even recognize the loss and there is a sense of being disenfranchised. That is so true when someone experiences a miscarriage that others may not even see or know or when someone loses a lifelong friend.
Sometimes what we may most need is not something done for us (even though there may be things that can help, and we appreciate it). And how do we articulate that what we most need is someone to “be” with us versus “do” for us. Being or feeling alone in the midst of upheaval can be overwhelming for the best of us – especially if the cause is not easily resolved. That has happened to far too many people around the globe during the pandemic because even if we wanted to “be there”, we were not allowed to be.
Perhaps we most need a listening heart even more than a listening ear. And those are rare finds indeed.
A listening heart not only seeks to “tune in” to us but also is listening to the nudge of the Lord. A person who has you come to mind and senses a nudge to call you, fix a meal, send you flowers, write you a note, or pray is someone with a listening heart. Such a person is not so engaged in their own busy lives that they are unable to “hear” that nudge and are empathic to consider what he or she most needs perhaps if the situation was reversed. They may likely do something you ask, but they have taken relationship to another level (both vertically and horizontally).
A few of us are truly gifted in this, but many of us are not very good at it. That can be because we are far more self-focused than we realize or would care to admit, or our vertical relationship spiritually is not really an ongoing daily connection with the Lord. It can also be true that we have been doing for so many that we are burned out and have lost that once possible tuning into a nudge to touch someone (even if it isn’t in person). If our lives are flowing along, we can get caught up in the stream and be going through life on automatic. It can happen to us all if we are honest.
It is often someone who has walked through a time when life came at them sideways who has developed a “listening heart” and responds to us with unusual sensitivity. That person has suffered something, so they “get” suffering as few others do. It’s beauty coming out of ashes.
Sometimes we can be tempted to believe or feel that no one out there “gets” us, no one is listening or even cares. That very often happens during the long nights when the rest of the world seems to be asleep, and we are left alone with our pain, loss, and thoughts that can come unraveled and cause us to lose perspective and hope. It can happen also when we expect a response from someone close to us and it doesn’t happen, or it happens in a way that shows us they have no clue about where or how we are at that point in time.
But that isn’t accurate. There is someone who “gets” us and understands all manner of suffering. He has the BEST listening heart ever.
“The world is a mob of everyone talking at once and no one is willing or able to listen. But God listens. He not only speaks to us, he listens to us. His listening to us is an even greater marvel than his speaking to us. It is rare to find anyone who listens carefully and thoroughly. It is rare to find our stammering understood, our clumsy speech deciphered, our garbled syntax unraveled, sorted out and heard – every syllable attended to, every nuance comprehended. Our minds are taken seriously. Our feelings are taken seriously. When it happens, we know that what we say and feel are immensely important. We acquire dignity. We never know how well we think or speak until we find someone who listens to us.
True speaking is made possible when there is true listening. What good are words without a listener?”Eugene Peterson in Reversed Thunder
We may be tempted to feel or believe He is not listening at all because the answer we so much need has not happened or at least not yet. It is then we most need to rest in the assurance of his love for us and that it is unfailing and everlasting.
“Important things are being done while we wait. The action on earth, seen from the heavenly place is a drama of victorious redemption.
Prayer orients us to God’s design.”Eugene Peterson in Reversed Thunder