Listening is a gift that not everyone has. It requires stepping out of ourselves and into
the life of someone else. Any urge to judge has to be set aside. When people need to talk,
more often than not, it’s not because they are seeking advice. Don’t offer any, unless it is
asked for. They just need to feel that someone understands them. In a way, it’s not that
important that you do. It just means a lot to them that you care enough to stop and listen.
And who knows: maybe you’ll learn something.
Everyone has a story to tell: a lifetime of stories. Stories are different than anecdotes.
Anecdotes usually start out with, “That reminds me of the time...” Anecdotes tell about
something that happened. Stories come from the heart. And every story requires a listener.
In The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter, Mr. Singer, who is a deaf mute, lives a life of isolation, his stories buried inside of him. The only person he could “talk” to was his deaf mute friend who was a child, living in a man’s body. But, Mr. Singer was a story listener. He could read lips and he listened with rapt attention. Those who poured out their dreams and frustrations to him felt that he cared about them in a way that no one else did. His
compassion shone through, and they somehow knew that no matter how intimate a secret they shared with him, he would not judge them. But, the best story listener was Jesus. No person was so lowly or unacceptable to others that Christ wouldn’t open his heart to them.
Publicans, harlots, beggars and thieves
Jesus was a friend to them all
He ate at their tables and walked on their streets
And he comforted their weary souls
Didn’t My Jesus Die For all? by Jerry Rasmussen
You never know when Christ will send someone to you, who needs to talk with you:
If you meet a stranger, welcome him in
Don’t leave him standing at your door
You can never tell who Jesus will send
Whether they are rich or poor”
Didn’t My Jesus Die For All?
Several years ago, I was walking across the parking lot of a Grand Union supermarket. It was a beautiful, sunny day and I had a bounce in my step when I heard a car horn blowing. I looked around to see where it was coming from, and saw a woman parked at the edge of the lot with her window rolled down, waving to me. I turned and walked over to the car, figuring that it was someone I knew. When I got close enough, I realized that I had never seen her before. When I got up to the car, she said “Hello, I wanted to ask you to pray for my mother.” She had a story to tell. I stood there, leaning against the side of her car and she poured her heart out. Her mother was in the hospital and she was very concerned for her. I asked her mother’s name and told her that not only would I pray for
her, but that my wife and I would visit her in the hospital. I asked her why she thought that I would pray for her Mother, and she said, “When I saw you walking across the parking lot, you looked like a minister.” I told her that I wasn’t, but she understood her needs better than I did. She needed someone to minister to her and somehow she sensed that I would. We are all ministers, and you never can tell who Jesus will send to you for ministering.
People seek out story listeners wherever they can find them. Supermarkets seem to be as good a place as any. More recently, I stopped at a big Y on the way home to pick up a couple of items. I was standing in the Express Checkout line when I glanced back, and out of the corner of my eye saw a woman standing behind me. I made room on the conveyor belt and invited her to put her groceries down before noticing that all she was buying was a small greeting card. I smiled when I saw that and said, “I’d hate to have you standing in line holding that heavy card,” and she laughed. And then the flood gates opened. She told me that it was a thank you card for her brother. She said, “He just
bought me a new Chevrolet Suburban SUV and paid for my insurance, and I wanted to let him know how much I appreciate it.” I said that she must have a wonderful brother, and she started talking about how she washes his clothes and cleans his house, and all the things that she does for him. I responded by saying “When you do something good for someone else, you’ll get your reward when you least expect it” She needed to talk to someone. It just happened to be me. As I left, I told her to have a good day and to enjoy her car.
Sometimes, a casual conversation can unexpectedly open up into an honest discussion of faith. A few weeks ago, I was at my podiatrist’s for a check-up. Caring for someone’s feet is a holy profession. After all, Jesus washed the apostle’s feet and told them that they should do the same for others.
Ye call me Master and Lord; and ye say well; for so I am.
If I then, your Lord and Master, have washed your feet; ye also ought to wash one
I"m not sure how the conversation wandered onto miracles, but it was something that my
podiatrist wanted to talk about. He asked me if I believed in miracles. I told him that I did,
and that I didn’t see any reason why miracles should have stopped after Christ’s lifetime. He goes into private homes to care for elderly, home-bound patients and talked with emotion of a particular woman whose bedroom is like a shrine, filled with religious figures, pictures and several burning votive candles. My Podiatrist could understand how miracles happen to someone of such great faith but he asked “Why do miracles happen to people who aren’t even very religious?” I thought of Paul on the road to Damascus being blinded by the light of Jesus Christ who appeared before him. Paul was certainly not “very religious.” He was persecuting the Christians. My answer to my Podiatrist’s question was, “Maybe it’s the people who don’t believe who are the most in need of a miracle. God has certainly used great sinners to do His will. If you had to be “religious” to be used by the Lord, His work would never get done.
We had a wonderful conversation, as unexpected as it was enjoyable. It would never
have happened if I didn’t take the time to listen.
There’s a wonderful line in a song by Carmen McRae:
Never stopped to listen,
Never missed a chance to speak”
Livin’ by T. Garvin
There are people all around us who’s hearts are lonely hunters. They have a hunger to
share their stories with someone who is compassionate and understanding. Don’t turn
them from your door. Take the time to listen to them; to encourage them, and to pray for them. Christ would do no less. Better yet, tell them about Jesus. No one listens as lovingly and with as much compassion as Christ.
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