Today, I didn’t feel well. A cold. Cough. Sneezing. Coughing. A day to go back to bed. I know. A cold is a cold. We all have one sooner or latter. Yet, it seems different when it’s my cold. It is one thing to have an awareness of something. It is quite another mattter to be living it.
When other people are sick, I sympathize. But–when I am sick, when I don’t feel well, when I am the one that feels lousy, it just feels different. Why? Most of us tend to be the center of our own universe.
I remember being in conversation with a guy a few years ago. It seemed like every couple of sentences that I would utter, he would then say, "I understand." Not "I understand" as in "I hear you and I am am making an effort to grasp what you are saying to me." No, this was different. This was said with almost an air of "You don’t have to explain anything to me, I know all of that." The truth is that there are so many of life’s experiences that we don’t fully understand without having experienced them. Consequently, we can learn from others who have experienced what we haven’t. That ought to cause us to listen more intently. That ought to bring out some humility in us.
A number of years ago, I taught a senior level ministry class in both the fall and spring semesters of a small Bible college. On one occasion, we were talking about the varied experiences of people who make up a church family. On any Sunday morning, (not to mention the rest of the week), the church is made up of people who are going through a lot of varied life experiences. Given who makes up our churches, we might do well to think through questions such as:
- What’s it like to be divorced? To have been abandoned by your husband for another woman?
- What’s it like to have been fired? To told that you and all that you have to offer are no longer needed.
- What’s it like to be told that you have cancer? To be told that it has spread in many places.
- What’s it like to be a new Christian? To have none of the background in Scripture that so many others take for granted.
- What’s it like to get old? To find that others are not asking your opinion on things any more.
- What’s it like to move to a new city? To have no friends to call and invite to come over. To feel as if you are not included by some of your same age group at church.
- What’s it like to be single in a church full of married people?
Sometimes I think that we are too quick to say, "I understand." Maybe we would do well to listen more intently to people.
I have found that many people just want someone to listen–to really listen. To listen to understand. I heard one of my children once say, "Dad, would you just listen?" Ouch! I want to learn to pay attention.