Sometimes, I imagine I’m a well-known writer. With all of my other imaginary qualities, I’m a splendidly-rounded personality. The truth is, however, that I have a hard time expressing myself. My emotions don’t translate well into prose.
But tonight I’m thinking that maybe that’s not such a bad thing. Expressing myself doesn’t have to be my notable character attribute. What if I were a good listener instead?
My time of training in New York brought out reflective questions: Do I listen with my heart? Do I hear the longings behind the words people are saying? Or am I too preoccupied with finding an avenue of expressing myself?
God used New York for my “ah-ha!” moment. The real training has started since I’ve been home. So many people need listening to. What have I been missing out on all these years?
Today I had lunch with a lady from church who shared some of the struggles of being a mom. In class tonight, a student told me about the discrimination she sometimes faces as an immigrant. Just when I thought I’d used up my daily quota of compassion, another acquaintance expressed concern over potentially losing her job over a moral issue.
So, I listened. Now what? What exactly does “weep with those who weep” (Rom. 12:15) look like from day to day?
I guess I’m still learning.
Despite the diversity of New York City, Steinway street is different for me. It feels as if God is showing me a map with a red arrow and a clarifying “You are here” hovering over Steinway Street. This is very well what my life might look like for the next year while I’m in North Africa.
What are these people really like behind their cultural façade? What are their hopes, longings, and hurts?
- A woman escorting her aging mother to the doctor.
- A Lebanese man selling pastries.
- A man with a leg injury, lingering outside of the mosque.
- An middle-aged Egyptian couple–he sipping coffee and she rattling Arabic, hoping for someone to see her beyond the Alzheimer’s.
- A young lady with heavy, dark makeup–guarded and watchful.
- A sales clerk turning every hopeful conversation into a potential sale.
“They don’t know! They don’t know You.”
Last weekend I was in Ohio for a seminar. It was incredible. One of the most applicable things I learned all weekend was an analogy that exemplified a principle.
Picture yourself and your siblings as children playing in the sand. Each of you is building your own sand castle. But building a sand castle is more effective with more than one builder. You begin to strategize how you can get your siblings to help you build your castle:
You could approach their castles, mocking them: “You’re building it all wrong! How silly! It doesn’t even look like a castle!” Maybe you’d even kick over a tower.
Or you could focus on your castle, building it up with your words as well as with your hands. You could talk about your plans for your castle. “Look at this! Isn’t it great?! I want a double moat around it here… and don’t you think it would look nice to extend it out this way?”
Which method would be more likely to attract people to what you believe? Think about it.