I was so young then. That was my excuse anyway. I was working as a “women’s” editor at a newspaper when a worried mother came into the newsroom. She wanted to talk to someone about her college daughter, who she said had been raped — by the daughter’s boyfriend.
Yet I froze. This was long before #MeToo, years before talk about campus rape or assaults against girls or women were openly aired. As I watched the mom telling me her story, all I could feel was panic, thinking: I don’t know what to say to her.
Looking back, I can see my bigger problem: I didn’t know how to listen.
Her pain was too much. Or her story was too messy? Do you know that feeling — hearing someone else’s ordeal but longing to flee because their story sounds too hard? Too complicated? Too tough to tackle?
Back then, before Dr. Phil, Oprah, and other self-help kingpins took over daytime TV, urging us to share pain, my humble mind heard rape and sought a quick escape. I went straight to judgment. Why didn’t she just say no? Why didn’t she date a nicer guy? Struggling to figure a proper response, I plugged my ears shut tight. To be honest, I wanted her to go away, to leave me to my new job and take her scary problem with her. Yes, to turn and go far, far away.
Surely, I wasn’t thinking about what Jesus said about listening:
Pay attention to what you hear: with the measure you use, it will be measured to you,
and still more will be added to you.
Mark 4:24 (ESV)
I’ve been thinking a lot about that Scripture recently. First, I never confessed my lack of compassion for that distressed mom. I told her the newspaper couldn’t write a story on her daughter’s ordeal because we didn’t “have all the facts.” Basically, I told her, Thanks for coming in, but we can’t help you.
Now, as a newcomer to (in)courage, I’ve noticed how incapable I can feel when other contributors write about their deep distress or you, as our sisters and friends, share yours. Often, I turn tail and run. Other people’s pain can, to me, feel jagged and frightening, simply too hard to hear or bear. Or, I can become like Jesus’ disciples, when He encountered someone needing healing, and their default was not to hear but often to judge — Who sinned?
Jesus’ way of listening, however, was extraordinary. He listened with compassion, respect, close attention, and mercy. “What do you want me to do for you?” He asked the blind man on the Jericho road. Onlookers instead rebuked blind Bartimaeus, telling him to be quiet. But Jesus wanted to hear him — What do you need Me to do?
What a stunning response.
It says He longs to hear and to help us. I seize on that sweet grace today, because on some days, we all need somebody just to listen — yes, to hear us. But if they won’t, or if they can’t, our loving God promises He will.
As the Lord told the prophet Isaiah:
Before they call I will answer; while they are still speaking I will hear.
Isaiah 65:24 (NIV)
Scripture tells us He will listen to the righteous. In Christ, since we are justified, we’re invited to tell the Lord all of our struggles, needs, and problems, and He doesn’t run away.
For the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous and his ears are attentive to their prayer.
1 Peter 3:12 (NIV)
Still a question remains. Will I have the courage it may take to run to Him? To call on Him? To ask for His help?
It’s a humbling step. Our Jericho roads are bumpy, dirty, rutted, and pitted. Blind Bartimaeus endured the ridicule of others and the indignity of begging to ask God to hear his need. Yet he was willing to ask because God was listening — even when others would not.
Will you ask Him today for what you need? Will you step over naysayers, onlookers, plugged ears, and even an immature newspaper editor to ask the Lord for a hand up?
My questions are for all of us. So, I turn to Him today, asking for more compassion, less judgment, a more generous heart. And you? When it comes to others, what do you ask of Him today? I’m asking Him today to bless you. You’re a fellow traveler. Thus, may He bless you now to be heard by me, and me by you. But if there’s ever a time when we can’t hear each other, let’s rejoice to know this: God is already listening.
We’re invited to tell the Lord all of our struggles, needs, and problems, and He doesn’t run away. -@PatriciaRaybon: Click To Tweet