Last week, for those who have been paying attention, we were praying for three people a day. It’s all part of our master plan of trying to bless this world of ours with the love and grace of Christ. But, in order to bless folks, we need to hear how it is that we should bless them. We need to be attentive to their needs and wants and hurts and pains and joys. And, in order to do that, we need to listen to them.
THIS IS HARD.
It’s hard to listen. Take it from someone who fights hard to not have his eyes glaze over when someone is talking to me and my mind is somewhere else…when I have a project I’m trying to work on (or a blog post I’m trying to write). And we all have different challenges when it comes to listening. Sometimes we, frankly, just don’t care what the other people are saying. Sometimes we have too much stuff going on in our own lives that makes it challenging; we may be grieving or worried or tired. Sometimes we have other projects that we’re in the middle of. Oftentimes in today’s culture we’re so busy thinking about what we’re going to say, how to interject OUR opinion, that we fail to hear at all. (Take a look at our cable “news” stations.) And, other times, we just are paying attention somewhere else.
In our family, for instance, it can be very difficult to get the attention of our little ones when they are watching a show on television. They completely tune out and we have to call their names two or three times to get a reaction.
But it’s not just kids and TV. It’s all of us. We all have issues with listening.
Yet, as the saying goes, there’s a reason the good Lord gave us two ears and only one mouth. We are made to be listeners.
And, if we’re going to bless this world of ours, we need to get better at using those two ears. We need to listen to our community. We need to pay attention to the folks at the coffee shop. We need to understand when it is that someone is trying to tell us something, trying to express a need.
There’s a great illustration of this in the gospels, with the Blind Beggar in Luke 18:25-43:
As he approached Jericho, a blind man was sitting by the roadside begging. When he heard a crowd going by, he asked what was happening. They told him, “Jesus of Nazareth is passing by.” Then he shouted, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!” Those who were in front sternly ordered him to be quiet; but he shouted even more loudly, “Son of David, have mercy on me!” Jesus stood still and ordered the man to be brought to him; and when he came near, he asked him, “What do you want me to do for you?” He said, “Lord, let me see again.” Jesus said to him, “Receive your sight; your faith has saved you.” Immediately he regained his sight and followed him, glorifying God; and all the people, when they saw it, praised God.
Here is someone shouting out on the side of the road. The crowds are telling him to be quiet. But Jesus listens to the man and, by asking “What do you want me to do for you?” he is able to meet a need.
We need to think about what the people around us may be telling us, asking of us, as well.
So, here’s a challenge…when you’re at the coffee shop (or the gym or the school program or the senior center) try to hear what is going on around you. What are the needs of the people in that place? What are they crying out for (or asking for)? How could you or your church body or missional community bless them?
I know of a pastor in Indiana who went to the local McDonalds every Thursday. That was the place the “old guys” gathered to “solve all the world’s problems.” From listening to them this pastor heard about how the closing of the local factory was making it hard on folks. And, because he listened, his church body was able to meet some of the needs.
We have no factory closing down around us. But, clearly, if I were to take the time to listen to the folks around me, I might learn a thing or two about how I could bless them.
How will you listen to your neighbors, your friends, today?