Listen Without Expectations

Listen Without Expectations

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Wherever the river goes…It will become fresh; and everything will live where the river goes. (Ezekiel 47:9)

Last night as election results were starting to reach the news stations, I was in the basement conducting an interview for an upcoming podcast. Both of us were uninspired by either candidate. It felt like we were hiding. So, we lost ourselves in a conversation about life, farming and faith.

There was a problem with the interview. My guest didn’t tell me what I expected and wanted to hear. His words betrayed some of the best farming illustration sermons I had ever given. When guests don’t tell me what I expect to hear, I find myself fighting an internal battle. The battle is between authentically listening to the guest and wanting to correct them so they understand the brilliance of my view.

For some time, I have felt my preaching does not always reflect the issues influencing the people listening to my sermons. The Ordinary Voices podcast was created to help me do something about this disconnect. It has radically transformed my words and is helping me connect faith to everyday living.

This morning as I reviewed the election results, I thought about how much listening, or lack there of, has played in this election. On a recent episode of “This American Life,” they played a recording of a Republican congressman meeting with his local constituency. When the issue of immigration came up the congressman tried to explain the law. A woman told him, “You’re not listening to us.” He apologized and tried to listen, but he struggled to cope with the aggressiveness of their thoughts. In the end, neither the crowd, nor the congressman felt heard.

It reminded me of a lesson I used to teach summer camp counselors. Children from tough backgrounds swear all the time. A counselor’s natural reaction is to tell them to stop. However, people who swear a lot are angry about something. So, I would tell counselors, find out why they are angry and deal with that then the swearing is more likely to stop.

Last night the people who have felt frustrated and unheard spoke and the nation is now forced to listen. There is overwhelming joy in being heard. But don’t be seduced by the victory. In the end it was a 50/50 election. If we don’t start listening to each other and have law makers working for both sides the anger and tension will remain.

Ezekiel speaks to a nation torn apart by the Babylonian Exile. Israel has been defeated, scattered and its people divided. Into this context, Ezekiel breathes hope. Israel will be restored and life will flow from the waters of the temple. These words can only be hope, though, if one listens to them. Listen to your neighbor and remember, the Lord is there listening with you.

Click to read: Ezekiel 47: 1-12

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