“Post this at all the intersections, dear friends: Lead with your ears, follow up with your tongue, and let anger straggle along in the rear.” James 1:19 | MSG
Be quick to listen is how some Bibles say this. I have a bad habit of listening up to a point and then I start forming an answer, rebuttal, comment, or opposing viewpoint. My thoughts of how I’m going to respond shut off my my attention to what’s being said. I get lost in preparing my reply so I miss out on personal connection. I miss out on learning something new because I have a selfish heart. My reply becomes more important than the other person.
One day a Pastor friend was driving us to a small seminar in Dallas on feeding the homeless. Serenity had been open for only a few months at that time but we had already met a significant number of people in the community. I asked the Pastor to stop by The Corner (Serenity) so I could get my notepad.
He had never been in the room before so he came in to take the 60 second tour. We opened the door to leave and a man I had never seen walked up and asked if he could talk to me. I said sure and invited him in. He sat on the sofa and I sat across from him in a chair and Pastor stood beside the sofa.
“I’m King and I just got released from Bradshaw (one of the prisons),” he said. “I heard you can help me.”
“Well, you heard wrong. Only Jesus can help any of us. But I’ll be glad to listen and maybe between the two of us we can come up with something.” That’s sort of our standard beginning. We can’t fix anybody. Only Christ can if they’ll let him. We can only help them read the compass so they will no longer be disoriented. We believe this is what the Bible means by being Lost. We are disoriented people until we find the True North (Christ) and get headed in the Right Direction (His Kingdom).
King began to tell us how he was released two weeks earlier, was on parole, moved back to Terrell, but his family and friends wouldn’t have anything to do with him.
He had talked about two minutes and Pastor interrupted him and asked, “Are you drinking and doing drugs?”
King looked at him, squinted his eyes, and said,”Yes.”
“Then you need to stop all that and come to Jesus.”
King looked at him for several seconds and then at me and said his goodbyes and left.
I’m sure he had more to say and we could have entered in to a real conversation if not that day at least over time. We have found that if we reveal God’s Kingdom in tangible ways patience, trust and respect are established and The Lord will set up the proper time to talk.
I got in the car with Pastor and prayed asking The Lord if I should say something and if so what should I say. I believe in boldness. I also believe we should be wise in our timing. I often think about the conversations that Jesus had with people and how He handled Himself: Nicodemus, the woman at the well, Zacchaeus, and others.
Jesus seemed to be able to ride the waves of conversation in a much more comfortable stance than we do. He seemed to listen better than we do. He seemed to let the flow of the conversation take its natural course. He led with his ears and followed the heart of the the person he was with.
Sir William Osler wasn’t exactly wrong when he said, “Listen to your patient, he is telling you the diagnosis.” As those who have Christ living in them, this should be our practice. It’s been said we learn more by listening than by speaking. It takes many conversations to learn about someone. The more more we listen, the more we learn, and the better we can understand and respond. But this requires us to invest time with people. Another way to say that is we have to be patient. It takes a long time to dig for gold but miners understand that.
I eventually turned to Pastor as he drove and said, “Sometimes our best sermons are the ones when we never use words.”
Lead with your ears.