What are the things that I don't know that I don't know?
This is the primary question that Faithwalking asks each person to consider. And then, how can I begin to know what I don't know?
One way I can do this is to learn to listen differently. Instead of listening for only 3-9 seconds before I begin to decide what is right or wrong about what another is saying, before I begin to formulate my argument back, before my autopilot reactive response that is formed by previous wounds and hurts kicks in, I can decide instead to listen differently. I may not ever agree with what you say, but I can listen with the idea that what you are saying is true for you, and maybe I can learn something from that. At the very least I can be fully present to you and hear what you say.
At some point in time each one of us has been broken, deeply truly broken, shamed, hurt, rejected, embarrassed, neglected or abused.
Listening for right or wrong/ agree or disagree will close me off to something that God wants me to hear, and if I close myself off to what God wants me to hear I will not grow fully into the person God desires me to be, I will stand in the way of my own transformation.
And so learning to listen differently is critical.
Listening differently puts me in a place of vulnerability because as I listen differently I will also BE different. I may end up being more human, more authentic, more real, I may disclose more of my real self.
But there is healing in our ability to be real, to listen deeply, to be present with others.
You and I may hold very different values and beliefs. I can learn from listening to you. Maybe you will learn something from listening to me. You do not need to be me. I don't intend to be you.
Sometimes I am the parable in the Gospel reading today: just as I am about to grow full and ripe the shame and pain of previous wounds cuts me off like a sickle cuts off grain, and I retreat into my wounded self Other times I have the courage and the inspiration to grow more fully, pain and all, and then I find that the growing pains have actually made me a better, happier, wise person.
Sometimes I am like the people Paul is speaking to in his letter to the Corinthians, I argue and want to be right, even if I am wrong. I won't listen, I act out of my first formation - the way I learned to be from the good and the challenges of my childhood - a way that may have helped when I was kid but fails me now as an adult. I don't want to behave like that broken 11 year old, I want to behave like a mature 61 year old, with compassion and wisdom.
I often wish I could be like Vashti in the reading from Esther - a woman who knew herself well enough, who valued her worth enough that instead of showing up wearing ONLY the crown before a room full of drunken men, she said no, she defied the king. She lost her role as queen but she retained her integrity. Or maybe I would be more like Esther, more meek and seemingly docile, and yet she too defied the King and saved her people.
As I prepare to begin the Faithwalking 201 course I am thinking about what it means to listen to God and follow Jesus, to live by the mission I hear God calling me into.
Will I live a small, narrow life, that seeks safety and avoids risk? Sometimes I really want that. But I fear that if I do that I will also feel incomplete, unhappy, inauthentic, not fully me, which will leave me feeling sad and empty.
To be the person God is calling me to be I need to listen and respect the human being that others are by not name-calling or belittling. But that does not mean I have to agree nor support what they are doing. I can speak out, especially when someone uses scripture, the foundation of the faith I hold dear, to promote unjust actions which clearly go against what God intends - and God's intentions are clear if one reads all of the Bible instead of just pulling one or two sentences out of context.
So yes. I hope to be the person who speaks up, like Vashti or Esther, to be the seed that grows a deep faith and produces and active spirituality. You don't have to live your faith the same that I am feeling called to live, but I do hope that you too will learn to listen in a new way. To respect others, even if when you disagree, and to wonder, what can I learn from this? What I usually learn in situations like this is more about myself, how I can become more of who I want to be, how I can do more to make a difference. I can't change anyone else, but I can change me. This does not mean that I will be passive in the face of injustice, only that I will not demean others, even those whose values and beliefs are radically different from mine. I will, however, aim to speak up, to be like Vashti.
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