Being Heard

scenic view of lake and mountains against sky
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

There’s something special about sitting with someone and hearing their story. Whether it’s in a more formal setting like when I volunteer at the Eve Center, or sit across from someone at a coffee shop, or meet with them for spiritual direction, I’m amazed at what an impact simply listening has on the person being listened to. 

I will often start off by asking what brings them here today or how has God moved in your life since we last met or tell me about how you grew up…the list of questions one can ask is endless really. 

Then I sit and listen. I may interject with a question or two or ask something for clarity but mostly I just listen. I cannot tell you how many times at the end of our hour together, she will get up to leave with a bit more pep in her step and declare, I feel so much better! 

And I’ve done nothing but listen, really listen, as they poured out their heart and soul, their concerns, fears, anger, confusion, doubts. It’s truly an honor to sit with someone in their story. 

But I haven’t always been a good listener. 

It’s 2011 when my oldest daughter came home from college and announced that she was either agnostic or atheist, she wasn’t sure which, but she certainly didn’t believe in OUR God. I wish my first reaction was to sit down and talk about it but instead I pulled the line every parent pulls when their kids jump out of the box we’ve put them in…

What are you talking about? You were not raised that way! What’s happened to my sweet girl? 

We continued to discuss (argue). I would push her back in and shove the lid down as she kept turning the crank to be let out of this Jack in the Box scenario. 

There is no space for different opinions in the box. 

There is no room for growth in the box. 

There is no place to have conversation in the box. 

There is no room for grace in the box. 

That’s when I realized something had to change and that something was me. 

The next time she came home, I was determined to ask questions, to try to understand, to make her feel like she was being heard. 

It’s something I’ve been practicing now for ten years. Not just with her but with most everyone I meet. 

What is it I’ve learned over these past ten years? 

People need space to wonder out loud. 

People need a place to feel their feelings without judgement. 

People need to be able to ask hard questions with no easy answers.

People need you to sit in hard places with them. 

People need to know you hear them. 

People need to know they are heard. 

I needed to stop trying to fix everything. 

I needed to learn to sit in the hard places with no easy answer. 

I needed to wonder with them instead of acting like I had all the answers. 

I needed to weep when weeping was what was needed. 

I needed to listen for the purpose of understanding and not to build my own case. 

I needed to learn that…

The quieter you become, the more you are able to hear. (Rumi)

It’s hard to do in this loud culture we live in today with all manner of opinion and all manner in which to express them but getting quiet so we can hear is sorely needed. 

We’ve gotten so good at talking over each other, haven’t we?

The next time you find yourself in a conversation with someone who thinks differently than you, looks differently than you, believes differently than you, try getting quiet, try listening so they feel heard. Stop shoving them back in your box, let them out. Try saying, tell me more. 

Let me know how it works out. It worked beautifully for me and not just with my oldest daughter. It’s a skill I’ve come to appreciate through the years as I’ve been blessed to sit with many and hear their stories.

I’ll leave you with this to think about: 

Being heard is so close to being loved that for the average person they are almost indistinguishable. (David Augsberger)

kw

The Being series:

Being Known

Being Seen

Being Thankful

Being Thankful

Tis the season for being thankful. As I type this my house is full of family, my pantry and refrigerator(s) are full of food and drinks. The cards are shuffled, the game boards are ready and the football schedule is posted. There is so much to be thankful for. And yet…

Our septic system had a crack in it right behind our house just days before company was coming. So instead of getting some of the things done that we wanted to, my man had to fix that. Nothing like being knee deep in poo mud. I AM thankful he knows how to figure things out and we didn’t have to hire someone to do it for us…$$$. I AM thankful that he was actually home and off work so he could fix it. But it still sucked. Can I even say that? Especially during the month of thankfulness. 

I know there are people who can’t afford the extra holiday food. Or enough food for their family at all. Others who hate their family. Some who will have empty chairs around their tables. Others who are having marriage trouble. Some who struggle with depression and anxiety and the holidays only exacerbate it. The list goes on. And yet…

As I scroll through my social media, I see all manner of people participating in things like 30 Days of Being Thankful and proceed to post pictures of their family members, dinner table settings and pets. But on the other side of the screen, looking past the perfectly filtered square that appears on my phone, they are struggling. Mentally. Emotionally. Physically. 

Then there are the people who want positive vibes only! No negative thoughts here! Without ever addressing the heart of how hard life is right now. It’s as if they are saying, Don’t ask me about __________. It is what it is and I’m just going to have to deal with it so I may as well think positive. 

But is that helpful? Do people feel the pressure to show well and ignore reality? Could there be a dark side to this whole thankfulness thing? 

I’m really not trying to be a Negative Nancy but I fear Positive Pollyanna has caused some undo stress and strain as she’s taught us to ignore the pain and push down the real feelings that need addressed. 

So, let’s talk about it. 

The Grumblers and Complainers

As the Israelites were wandering in the desert, we see time after time where the Lord provided. They complained to Moses about being thirsty from lack of water, God provided thirst quenching H2O. 

They complained about food, the Lord provided Manna…something that means what is it?, something that no one had seen before, tasted before, experienced before. Food that was simply there for them when they stretched and yawned and walked out of their tents each morning. Provision enough for each day with more on the sixth day so they could rest on the seventh as God commanded. 

Then that wasn’t enough. They tired of manna and wanted meat. God provided once again in the form of quail. 

They had clothes that didn’t wear out. Shoes that didn’t wear thin. Signs of when to move and when to pitch their tents. 

God proved Himself as Jehovah-Jireh, the God who provides. 

And yet they grumbled and complained. The thrill of what is it? became is this what we’re having again! Quail provided for free gave way to a hankering for something more. 

The riffraff among them had a strong craving for other food. The Israelites wept again and said, “Who will feed us meat? We remember the free fish we ate in Egypt, along with cucumbers, melons, leeks, onions and garlic. But now our appetite is gone, there’s nothing to look at but this manna!” (Numbers 11:4-6)

I thought quail was meat? The “free fish” wasn’t really free…not when you are a slave to Pharoah. 

God had some thoughts and feelings when the Israelites started complaining openly before the Lord about hardship. He was ticked off about it and His anger burned, fire from the Lord blazed among them and consumed the outskirts of the camp. 

Yikes. 

Grumbling and complaining with no recognition of anything good given is a bad habit that needs to be broken. You know those people…the inability to find the nugget of goodness, even when goodness is overflowing. A critical spirit is not a thankful spirit. I never want the Lord, or others, to see me and think ungrateful riffraff.

Let’s keep talking this thing through. 

Jesus Gave Thanks

We see Him give thanks several times in scripture: 

Before feeding the 4000 in Matthew 15:36. Even in the not enough. 

Before feeding the 5000 in John 6:11. Even with what little He had been given to work with. 

Before raising Lazarus from the dead in John 11:41. Even in His grief. 

Before sharing wine at the Passover meal in Luke 22:17-18. Even when the future looked hard. 

Before breaking bread and sharing wine at the Last Supper in Luke 22:19 and Matthew 26:27. Even though He knew He would be betrayed by a friend and beaten unfairly. 

Jesus teaches us to be thankful even when. 

But there is more. 

Jesus Showed Appropriate Emotions

He was angry in the temple. (Matthew 21:12-13) 

He was grieved over the death of His friend Lazarus. (John 11:35) 

He was genuinely saddened when He saw the state of Jerusalem. (Luke 19:41-44)

He was sorrowed and deeply troubled in the Garden of Gethsemane. (Matthew 26:36-39) 

He was true to His emotions. When He was angry, He showed it. When He was grieving, He gave Himself room to experience it. When He was sad, He let Himself feel it. When He was anxious and dreading what was to come, He was honest with how He was feeling. 

He didn’t stuff them down, cover them up or tell Himself He shouldn’t feel what He felt. 

What does this tell us? 

Thankfulness versus Toxic Positivity

Positive thinking is when you try to will good feelings or experiences into existence by focusing exclusively on the outcome you want. While this approach can be helpful when working through paralyzing fear, it can become toxic. If we “positive think” our way through hard things as a means to avoid or deny real feelings or experiences, we run the risk of invalidating the situation. 

You’ve heard it said that we don’t always get to choose how we feel but we do get to choose our response to those feelings. Toxic positivity says you should or shouldn’t feel a certain way so we shove it deep down and tell ourselves to “think positive!” or “I should be thankful.” 

Psychotherapist Jody Kemmerer says, Gratitude actually comes after a process of surrendering to our painful emotions, not after willing in something positive.

The point here is that in order to experience something positive such as gratitude, we must first be real with ourselves about what we are feeling. Whether it be grief, anger, envy, or shame, the only way out is through. 

Therefore, the first step in cultivating a thankfulness is to validate what we are actually feeling—no matter how painful or “wrong” it seems. When we can find the kernel of truth behind what we are feeling, we move toward understanding and acceptance. In order to shift toward gratitude, we must surrender. 

Thankfulness and true feelings are not an either/or but both/and.

Jesus shows us this as He is grieved over the death of His friend Lazarus, yet grateful that His Father heard His prayer. 

There is truth in the fact that there is always something to be thankful for but it doesn’t take away from the fact that standing in poo mud stinks…

Both/and. 

kw

More of the “Being” series:

Being Known: He Calls Me By Name

Being Seen: Truly

Being Seen: Truly

Wild Forget-Me-Nots because you are seen and not forgotten.

We live in a culture that screams loudly look at me! Vying for attention with social media posts: see me with my friends, see what I ate for dinner, see my accomplishments, see me being successful, see me, see me, see me. Please! 

Our houses are bigger and bursting with stuff. Our cars are faster and fancier. Our work weeks are longer. Our kids’ schedules are busier. We elbow our way to the top, push our kids to higher levels so they can “have it better than we did”…for what reason really?  Look at me. Please! 

We are a group of people that loves to be noticed. We are an exhausted people group. 

I’ve been guilty. It makes me wonder why. 

Every heart yearns to be seen. 

What happens when the biggest percentage of our lives is lived unseen? When 99% of every day isn’t what it appears to be on social media. Does any of that matter? Can we rest in the reality of the day to day, doing the things that no one sees, and be satisfied? What happens when we tire of the trying to keep up with the filters, picture perfect shots or being right because of the research you KNOW is true on YOUR side? Voices are hoarse as we out scream, out do, outperform. 

We show people what we want them to see but what does it look like to really be seen?

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ 

The Three in One sees each one…

The widow woman as she gives all she has. 

The crippled woman in the back of the room. 

The sacrifice made by the woman with the alabaster jar. 

The quiet faithfulness of Ruth, Rahab, Lois, Eunice and many others found in scripture. 

Beyond the adulteress woman’s sin. 

The woman at the wells future as He talks with her about her past.

Hagar in the wilderness. 

Hannah in her barrenness. 

Mary in her obedience. 

Deborah’s ability to lead. 

Aquila’s gift to teach. 

Each an example of being seen in the ordinariness of their day, their week, their life. Not on social media, not on a stage, not in a parade. But where they were at any given moment. 

He sees you…

You giving it all you have even on the days you have little to nothing to give. You are seen. 

You feeling crippled by life circumstances or the death of a loved one or a divorce or a disease. You are seen. 

You as you sacrifice for your family, taking care of the things no one sees, or seems to notice. Working hard at your job. Holding the hair of your child while they are sick in the middle of the night. Dare I say sharing the last piece of your favorite dessert. You are seen.

Your quiet faithfulness as you trust Him with your family, future, and feelings. Things are hard, yet you pray and trust. Things are beyond your control, yet your head stays bowed, knowing He sees you, hears you, loves you and will answer. You are seen.

You’re more than your mistakes. To be seen, truly seen, is showing up with your whole self, owning your story but not letting your story own you. That takes courage. You are seen. 

Your future is bright despite your past. You look back so can move forward and not make the same mistakes. You are seen.

You when you feel alone in your season of wilderness living. It’s in these places that we find out who we really are, what we really believe. Brene’ Brown says braving the wilderness is a call to courage. You are seen

You when your faith feels fruitless. Does it matter what I do? Does it matter when I pray, read scripture, be still, listen and try my hardest to walk in the ways of Jesus? It does. Even when. Keep showing, being obedient. You are seen.

You and your ability to lead. No, it’s not because there’s no one else available or you’re the last choice. It’s because you are the right person for the position. You are seen. 

You and your talents and gifts. They are called gifts for a reason! Don’t sit them on a shelf in their pretty packaging. Open them like a kid on Christmas morning. Delight in them. Use them and use them well. You are seen. 

You are seen by the One that matters. 

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ 

When I can rest in the assurance that I am seen by the One who matters, the unseen moments…those that are not shared on social media, filtered to perfection, loud and proud, prodded and applauded…are the moments that I feel most seen. 

My heart that yearns to be seen is full. 

Of joy in the simple things. 

Of gratitude even in the hard things.

Of love for the ordinary things. 

Of deep satisfaction for being seen by an audience of One. 

I am not a foregone conclusion, forgotten, or forsaken. 

I am seen. 

kw

Other posts in this series:

Being Known: He Calls Me By Name

Being Known: He Calls Me By Name

Photo cred goes to Martha Hill

I have a confession to make: the lady behind the deli counter thinks she knows me. Not by being a familiar face that comes every week to buy off the bone ham and honey turkey with a side of Colby cheese but KNOWS me in the sense that we’ve had long meaningful conversations. Let me explain a little further.

The first time she said, Hey! I know you! We had that wonderful conversation at our Christmas party last year. Yeah! I thought I recognized you! And off she went to slice my cheese. We were 10 deep at the deli counter, and I was wearing my mask so a) it’s impossible to see someone’s whole face and b) it makes it hard to hear if I tried to explain that I wasn’t that girl. Besides that, there would have been a mutiny among the meat seekers if I slowed this poor lady down any further than she already moved.  

A couple weeks later, my man is at the deli counter while I shop for the rest of our groceries, and when I walked over next to him, my friend/not friend’s eyes lit up and she talked up a storm. When we walked away, my man made a comment about how her demeanor changed when I walked over there. I explained that a) I was nice to her when other people grumbled out loud about how slow things moved and b) she thinks she knows me. 

Wait, what? She thinks she knows you? 

I think so. 

Then I went to store by myself. I ordered my off the bone ham and honey roasted turkey with a side of Colby cheese. She sliced the turkey, put it on the scale, looks at me and says, do you remember what the number is for Sarah Lee Honey Roasted Turkey? You and Courtney used to help me with the numbers all the time when we worked together. You remember Courtney, right? I think she moved to Texas. Those were such fun days! And off she went to slice my cheese. 

I am so far down this rabbit hole now that I’m not sure how to find my way out of it. I’ll keep smiling (with my eyes because, well, masks) and nodding my head and pray that there is a line, so we don’t have time for chit chat. 

I’ve been mistaken for someone I’m not. 

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ 

There is a familiar passage in John 10 where Jesus refers to Himself as the Good Shepherd and we are referred to as the sheep. He talks of being the gate for the sheep, the keeper of the sheep, the protector of the sheep even unto His very own death. 

Something that struck me afresh when I read this passage recently was the fact that He calls His own sheep by name. (verse 3) Every one of them? There must be dozens, if not hundreds of sheep that any given shepherd has in his care. And Jesus knows each one and each one has a name? 

We’ve had various flocks of chickens through the years, usually a couple dozen at a time and have never named them one by one. They are simply known as “the girls.” There’s too many to name and besides, each breed looks so much alike that there is no point in giving them individual names…unless, of course there is something that makes one particular one stand out…like Crooked Toe because she got stepped on when she was little, and her feet were all weird. But who wants to be named for the thing that’s wrong with them? Keep reading dear reader.

We take good care of them. Feed them. Water them. Put fencing up to protect them from predators which, quite frankly has not always worked. Check on them daily. But we don’t really know them…their quirks, their personalities (do chickens have personalities?), their interactions with each other. 

But Jesus sees each sheep and knows them. Their habits. Their wanderings. Their individual markings. He knows them and names them. He is the Good Shepherd. 

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ 

I’ve been known by a lot of names through the years. Some given by others. Some self-proclaimed. Some are beautiful. Some not so much. Some are from different seasons of life. Some have stuck through the years…both good and bad. Some I’m trying to shed. Some I’m trying to heal from. Some I’m trying to accept because I don’t always see myself as others see me. 

That’s the way of it, isn’t it? 

In The Soul of Desire, psychiatrist Curt Thompson suggests that underneath all our longings is the desire to be known. But that often our craving to be known has been marred by trauma and shame. (from the back cover of his book)

I wonder if in our culture to be constant, to be busy, to be the best, to be successful, to be, to be, to be, is our way of making ourselves known? Of making a name for ourselves? Of outrunning names from our past? Of out proving the names if only in our own minds?

Perhaps what we need to do instead is listen for His voice as He calls us each by name because He knows us. Then we can rest in who we are…known and named by our Creator. 

There is a sweet children’s book by Max Lucado called You Are Special and is set in the town of Wemmickville where there lives a Wemmick named Punchinello. Each day the residents award stickers―gold stars for the talented, smart, and attractive Wemmicks, and gray dots for those who make mistakes or are just plain ordinary. Punchinello, covered in gray dots, begins to feel worthless. Then one day he visits Eli the woodcarver, his creator, and he learns that his worth comes from a different source. (taken from the description on the back cover)

I am the Good Shepherd. I know my own and my own know me. (John 10:14) 

Jesus doesn’t mistake me for someone I’m not. 

He doesn’t confuse me with someone else.

He doesn’t name me by a handicap/disease/shortcoming. 

He doesn’t call me by my past mistakes. 

He doesn’t know me as victim or marred or wrong or dumb or not enough. 

No. 

Now this is what the Lord says—the One who created you, Jacob, and the one who formed you, Israel—Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by your name; you are mine. (Isaiah 43:1) 

Redeemed. 

Called. 

Known.

Named. 

His. 

Rest in that my beloveds and see if those stinking gray dots don’t start to fall off. 

You are known. 

You are named. 

You are.