Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Be Still. Listen. Be Present.

     These three reminders from Deacon David Nemetz’s sermon have stuck with me: “Be still. Listen. Be Present.” In an evening prayer service, Deacon Dave shared with us some of the lessons he’s learned over the years as he’s worked with families mourning the loss of loved ones. These three have proved to be the most profound, and at times, the most difficult.
     When someone is suffering in mind, body, and/or spirit, my reaction is often to want to take some action to make things better. All too often this tendency to get moving keeps me from recognizing the true source of the pain. If I slow down and allow myself to be still, it’s more likely that my emotional baggage or issues I’d likely project onto someone else will get sifted out, so focusing on the other person becomes easier.
     Listen. This is another stumbling block for me. Rather than just listen, I often fill the silence with prayers, personal stories, words of encouragement, or advice. Deep down, I know that what most people need and want is for someone to listen to them. I mean really listen, not just hear what someone else is saying and while they continue talking form your response and wait to jump in the moment they take a breath.     
     Active listening requires concentration, a desire to know the speaker on a deeper level, and a willingness to set our own opinions and concerns aside in order to receive the joys, sorrows, triumphs, tribulations, pain, and healing experienced by another.
     Be still and listen are two aspects of what it means to be present. If we’re still and giving the impression that we’re listening to someone, when really we’re thinking about the chores we need to do at home, the snide remark our boss made earlier, a similar experience to theirs we’d like to tell them about, some sound advice that’s worked for us in the past, then we are not being truly present to that individual.
     The same three suggestions are essential for growing into a more intimate relationship with the Lord. We need to be still in order to listen to the still, small voice of the Lord in our hearts. If we slow down and quiet ourselves enough to listen and truly be present with the Lord, it is then He often reveals our weaknesses, His overarching grace, our brokenness, and His healing love, mercy, and compassion.
     Lord, help us to be better about living out these three actions, so that we will come into a more intimate relationship with you and, thereby, recognize and honor Your Presence in every person we meet. Amen.
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