By Laura Raney
Last week, I flew home following a weekend of love-soaked conversation with a dear college friend. Our friendship began during a summer college term with luxuriously long hours that allowed for writing, debating and looking at beauty in the city that birthed Shakespeare’s words. Over 15 years, our friendship grew across a country as we saw one another through irreversible heartbreak and unimaginable redemption.
Boarding my plane, my mind already racing with what my work day held in store, I felt restored but exhausted. My love tank was replenished, but I felt weary from the range of emotion divulged throughout the trip. Spending three whole days catching up with people who knew me well had left me feeling accepted and known during a season of aloneness, but I was drained from letting love in! I recalled the numerous times I was asked a question and then responded to. It was odd recognizing that as rare.
I settled into a row close to the first class cabin and got busy going through work emails. Across the aisle, a woman started commenting on the comfortable cushion and the interesting magazine placed in the seat back nearby. She was speaking quietly and to no one in particular. I glanced up and she caught my eye. Then, excitedly, she continued on and on about where she was going and what brought her to this particular moment and what she planned to do when she arrived in Portland. It seemed as though she didn’t need me to talk. I began to nod at her chatter, as a way of responding without committing to a conversation. But I quickly realized she was hungry for the interaction. I asked her a question, and she lit up. She proudly shared about her son and how he’d bought this ticket for her. She asked me about my shoes, how much I paid for my ticket and what I was going to do when I landed.
I’m not great at this; it took me a minute to choose to participate in this conversation. I had been anxious to get some work done on that flight. And yet, my cup had just been filled. My friends had just given their time to listen to me. I was reminded what it meant to be known. How could I even consider not attempting the same?
After landing and saying farewell to this lady, my thoughts lingered back to my college friend. I have learned to listen better because this friend tunes in and translates my emotion with patience and discernment. She hears what I share and interprets it without the confidence of being right, but with care and humility, leaving no room for offense to invade the space between us.
As I challenge myself to be more attuned to listening to the Lord, I am more able to do the same with others. I am working to tell the story of my life by the way that I listen and care for the words people choose to share.
The following C.S. Lewis quote has always resonated deeply, and more so today than ever:
"It is a serious thing to remember that the dullest and most uninteresting person you talk to may one day be a creature which, if you saw it now, you would be strongly tempted to worship, or else a horror and a corruption such as you now meet, if at all, only in a nightmare. All day long we are, in some degree helping each other to one or other of these destinations. It is in the light of these overwhelming possibilities, it is with the awe and the circumspection proper to them, that we should conduct all our dealings with one another, all friendships, all loves, all play, all politics. There are no ordinary people. You have never talked to a mere mortal. Nations, cultures, arts, civilizations - these are mortal, and their life is to ours as the life of a gnat. But it is immortals whom we joke with, work with, marry, snub, and exploit - immortal horrors or everlasting splendors."
Love That Listens: The Life-giving Practice of Spiritual Presence - Join us Saturday, March 3rd, for a one-day women's event focused on listening, that small act of paying attention that has the potential to turn a life around. Speakers include Jeanne McKinley and Chelsea Gerlach. Psalms by Hannah Glavor. Learn more.