Listening….Another Word for Love (Part 1)
Vickie MacArthur of Lethbridge, Alberta, Canada
The LORD bless you and keep you;
the LORD make his face to shine upon you, and be gracious to you;
the LORD lift up his countenance upon you, and give you peace. -Numbers 6:24-26
A dear elderly sister in my church congregation passed away recently. Lillian was 87 years young, and although fragile physically, still had spunk and a spark of life felt keenly when one was in her presence. She had beautiful eyes that sparkled when she smiled. She had style. Her family said, “She had an unnatural love affair with tams, the kind you wear on your head.”
Asked by her family to preside at her celebration of life service, I met with Lillian’s two daughters a few days before the service. We talked about their mother and how best to both mourn her passing and celebrate her life. There was space for both tears and laughter in our conversation.
I had met Michelle and Lavonne before but did not know them well. They spoke of the minister who had preached a “fire-and-brimstone” sermon at their father’s funeral. He seemed to have no compassion for the family, bent only on using this forum to guilt people into believing. As such, they wanted to keep Lillian’s service “short and sweet.” No sermonizing!
That was a relief. Yet how, I wondered, do I talk about Lillian’s life in a way that will bring healing and closure to a spectrum of family and friends, from the “religious” to the “spiritual” to the “not sure what I believe”? Is there a thread that will connect them all? Could it be love?
What I remember most about Lillian was how well she listened, and how you really felt she was genuinely interested in your life and what you had to say. Whether I was talking about one of my own sons, or about myself, she always gave me her full attention with those beautiful sparkling eyes.
Somehow I imagine that’s what it would feel like to be listened to by Christ. I truly believe that Christ lived and breathed through Lillian’s ability to simply listen with her heart. As her obituary said, “Lillian had a way of listening to you and making you feel like you were the most important person in the world.” If she could make me feel like that, how much more her children and grandchildren must have felt that pure love.
Mark Nepo says, “To listen is to lean in softly, with the intention of being changed by what you hear” (The Exquisite Risk: Daring to Live an Authentic Life, Harmony, 2007). I believe Lillian leaned in softly, was changed by what she heard, and also changed other people’s lives just by listening.
Wherever I am, God is here.
Breathe deeply and prayerfully consider the story you have just read. What is the Spirit’s invitation to you in these words? What does it look like to wake up to God’s presence in this moment?
Today’s Prayer for Peace
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