What did you say?

I was at a loss. What do I write about this week? Last week, my post got more views and comments than I’ve had in a while. Which is awesome, but sad because of the topic and so many others feeling overwhelmed and alone. Also, it makes me question myself, wondering “will my words this week be enough?”

So I went back to a suggestion from a cousin of mine about listening. In response to a post about using your voice, she suggested writing something about the value of listening. I thought this was good and probably relevant to my previous post.

Silence often makes us uncomfortable. If there is a pause in the conversation, people tend to want to fill it with words… any kind of words. Sometimes when someone is talking, the other person is only thinking about what they will say next. They may be trying to come up with the perfect solution, “one up” the person talking, or even thinking of how to change the conversation topic. It happens a lot – people will get interrupted by being talked over. It makes them feel like their view or story is not important.

Remember the telephone game when you were a kid? This is how I remember it: A row of people would be lined up. At one end, a teacher whispered a sentence. That person whispered it to the next, they relayed to the next… and so on, until it came to the last person. They said the sentence out loud and it was completely different from what it started as. The point was to show how gossip and rumors change as the story gets passed to different people. Was everyone really listening or did they just hear what they wanted to hear? Or was their mind racing with what they could add? I think if you tried it now, kids might try to bend the story on purpose, but who knows?

In some of the groups I’m in, they talk about holding space for someone. I feel like it’s the ultimate expression of listening and compassion. Holding space means listening without trying to fix. Acknowledging the person and their story, but not talking over it or trying to change it. It also means you’re not playing “the telephone game” and telling everyone else. Instead, you’re praying for or with them, asking for things to work out for their highest good. You’re giving them a space to be themselves, feel their feelings, and be heard. (Just don’t absorb their story, it’s not yours to hold onto.)

Want to talk to someone who will listen and won’t interrupt you? Talk to a higher power – God, Mother Nature or the universe, whatever you connect with. Or, talk with a loved one who has passed. It’s an amazing feeling when you can sense their spirit with you. They may have shed their earthly body, but their spirit is still alive. It’s something we forget about, but it can be helpful and healing… and most of the time they don’t talk back.

I remember growing up in a small town in ND. Our Lutheran Church had a thing called “Junior Lutherans.” I’m not sure what the point of it was, it was different from Sunday School. I remember two older ladies who had either never married or were widows, would lead us in songs. One of them was “What a Friend We Have in Jesus.” I can still hear their shaking voices and picture their small stature and blue-grey hair. I think I could recite the songs still, but if you’re not familiar, here are the words:

What a Friend we have in Jesus,
All our sins and griefs to bear!
What a privilege to carry
Everything to God in prayer!
O what peace we often forfeit,
O what needless pain we bear,
All because we do not carry
Everything to God in prayer! 2Have we trials and temptations?
Is there trouble anywhere?
We should never be discouraged,
Take it to the Lord in prayer.
Can we find a friend so faithful
Who will all our sorrows share?
Jesus knows our every weakness,
Take it to the Lord in prayer. 3Are we weak and heavy-laden,
Cumbered with a load of care?
Precious Savior, still our refuge—
Take it to the Lord in prayer;
Do thy friends despise, forsake thee?
Take it to the Lord in prayer;
In His arms He’ll take and shield thee,
Thou wilt find a solace there.

We all need to feel seen and heard, even if we don’t like the attention. We also need to be able to listen. Really listen. I hope you’re able to have someone who really listens, and to be the same for someone else. And, know that you can always take it to the Lord in prayer. He’s not too busy and he doesn’t have a cell phone to distract him.

Peace be with you on your journey of enough. May you really listen to someone this week. Also, listen to nature and the changing seasons upon us. The leaves crunching beneath our feet will soon be covered with a blanket of snow. There is peace in the stillness.

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