Thursday, November 20, 2008

Why Listen? - Eleanor Shepherd

It seems ironic for a writer to insist on the need to listen, yet I believe it is a skill we need to cultivate, particularly if we call ourselves Christian.

Why do we need to learn to listen? The world we live in is a complex one. With the idea being promulgated that truth is always relative, it is difficult for any of us to find solid convictions in which to anchor our lives. This is true both inside and outside the church, and particularly so for a post-modern generation.

Those of us who grew up in the modern era were handed down some truths that we were to accept without question. We were forced to make a choice. We could accept what we were taught or we could reject it and find our own set of beliefs.
When tolerance became the supreme Canadian value, it was no longer acceptable for us to hand down truths to the next generation. We could make suggestions but we had to leave them to make their own decisions. Anything that we held onto without questioning was suspect. While there were positive aspects to such an approach, the church suffered many casualties. Perhaps the reason was that the beliefs that were handed down had not been examined and integrated into life.

What does all of this have to do with listening? Listening is an essential part of learning what makes sense and what does not. As we try on ideas and philosophies, it is in the testing of them that we find whether or not they can become an anchor that will hold us steady in the storms of life. That testing often takes place in our conversation with one another. As we share our lives, we affirm to each other what it is that keeps us going and where we find the strength to cope.

With eyes wide open we need to ask the hard questions that test our faith, so we will discover if we really do have something that will hold us when we need it. We ask ourselves, “Do I really believe that Jesus is with me in the maze that my life sometimes seems to be, like He accompanied his friends on the road to Emmaus?” “On what do I base my convictions?”

Here is a tough question. Do we have the courage to ask someone outside the church to tell us about the god in whom they do not believe? If we dare to ask, we may be surprised to discover the god in whom they do not believe is a god in whom we do not believe either. We all have a distorted picture of God at best. The often rejected god is not the God the Bible tells us about.

By listening to the genuine questions of other people, we will learn a lot about God and about ourselves. By listening to their questions, we may also find that they challenge our assumptions and teach us to live with some ambiguity. This can be for us the beginning of our walk into a genuine faith, that admits to not having all the answers.


MistiPearl said...

What a great post! I am going to put this one in to practice for sure!

Peter Black said...

A very excellent piece, Elleanor.
You've elloquently given voice to considerations that I,and no doubt others, share, and further raised points to ponder and put into practice.
Lord bless.

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