I write for the sake of conversation. For me, a period has never been the end of the story and one blog post can't be the end of the discussion. Books and sermons are just a jumping off point. News stories give us a direction. Magazine articles hit the refresh button on forgotten topics.
In my classroom, no subject is off limits. I'm careful to steer the direction of a few of those conversations (like the one about pornography, for example), but I rarely put out a fire if there are willing participants and viable topics--even if it goes beyond the boundaries of the lesson plan that day.
But the older we get, the shorter the conversations get. Most of them become a practice in defending an opinion and less about really listening to someone else. How is is possible for us to "get" people if we aren't even willing to allow them to be a part of the discussion?
In his sermon today, PastorJosh discussed the ridiculous things we say to hurting people. I've been at the wrong end of most of those comments. Likely, none of you have been exempt either. But the most ridiculous thing we do to a hurting person is ignore him/her.
See, the easiest way to deal with something is to pretend it doesn't exist. So if we close our eyes, turn our heads or keep ourselves fairly isolated, we never have to address another person's hurt at all.
I'm not sure why we do that. (And by "we," I mean *ahem* me...) Maybe it's because we don't know what to say or how to react. But I loved PastorJosh's initial advice to the congregation today: Shut up and listen.
Listening is really the most vital part of talking, and it's mostly ignored. There is a world of people out there who are just waiting for their turns to talk. You ever been in that kind of conversation? There's a lot of words being thrown around, but you aren't even heard?
(What's the purpose of that kind of conversation anyway? It rarely changes opinions. It almost never helps someone make a decision. And, for me, it usually results in spending less time with the person who just likes to hear the sound of his/her own voice... Or giving myself another speech about shutting my mouth already...)
It doesn't mean we become mute head nodders. (Doesn't that sound like a church name? The Evangelical Gospel Church of the Mute Head Nodders.) But in order for an exchange to happen, we have to understand that we are only part of the equation. We can't just be heard; we have to hear, too.
And after we hear, wouldn't it be great if we really wanted the conversation to continue? Let down the defensiveness? Opened our hearts to really "listening" to the other people--not just what they are saying, but what they are saying?
It wouldn't just change our relationships. It would revolutionize all of our interactions.
I'll warn you, though: it's a commitment. I'm learning that investments, or pouring in, is exhausting, overwhelming and demanding.
But it's also a little exhilirating--Christ in me, the hope of glory (Thank Him that He's willing to reveal the mystery. Col. 1:27).