A lot of parenting advice [and marriage advice for that matter] talks about how important listening is. I know listening is important, but I happen to have a mind that loves to wander, so I have to work on listening a lot.
This morning, though, something happened that I have to share. My daughter woke up on the wrong side of the bed. We were running late and she started crying about how much she did not want to go to school, that she just wants to be with me, etc., etc.
Usually I say some version of “suck it up.” I mean, they have to go to school. No one likes a complainer. But on my better days, like today for some reason, I decided to just hold her, sit down in a chair and listen to her complain.
And miracle of miracles, she got over it on her own, and went to school without complaining.
I tell this story, not to toot my own horn, but because it reminded me of the sermon I’m working on for Oct. 19 on the story of David and Bathsheba. David does a terrible thing. He lusts after Bathsheba, but she is married, so he has her husband killed so he can have her free and clear. It is an awful thing he does, but he is the king—and who is going to tell the king that??
Enter the prophet Nathan, who tells David a story, or gets him to listen. Nathan says that a king is hungry, wants to eat lamb, and rather than killing one of his own flock of thousands, kills a poor farmers one and only sheep. David is irate, and then he realizes that he did the same thing to Bathsheba’s poor husband, Uriah. And he feels terrible.
Maybe it is a stretch, but it made me think of how I could have told my daughter to stop complaining and that going to school is the law, yada yada. But what she needed was for me to just stop and spend some time with her so she could realize on her own what she needed to do.
I don’t think that if Nathan just told David flat out what a jerk he was it would have worked. David needed to hear the story, listen, and then be listened to as he realized what he had done.
I think one of the things that happened in both of these stories is that community was created through listening. David learned to trust Nathan, as my daughter has learned to trust me.
So often, I want to just stop the complaining and move on, though. I mean, it is exhausting listening to all the things kids can come up with….But what if I decide that they are people who need to be heard and just stop sometimes and take the time to hear them?
I think that is one of our jobs when we follow God. To stop all the stuff we think we have to be doing and just listen to each other. It might lead to a confession, or a change of heart. Or it might not lead to much at all. But listening shows that you value the person. I sure know I love to be listened to.
I am going to try this listening thing again. I’m going to try and notice when someone is telling me about something and it isn’t really about what they are telling me as much as it is about their need to just be heard and loved and listened to. It is what God does for us after all. God hears all our complain-y prayers and lets us just talk. And when we work through it, there is much rejoicing. Listening is godly work. I pray we can all listen to each other.