Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Struggling to be Heard

ear, hearing, listening, not being heard, prayer
listen to me... by Michela Mongardi (keela84) via flickr

We recently started a new Bible study. My husband is presenting some of the material he recently covered in one of his Course of Study classes at a nearby seminary. It's based on his New Testament class, and some of his topics include the Messianic Secret, Markan priority, and the criterion of embarrassment.
This material was... not received well.
It was very frustrating for him, because his initial exposure to this material was exciting and challenging to him. He was sure that it would be the same for the Bible study group.
It wasn't.

They just weren't that into it.
It brought up so many thoughts for me.
--Didn't Chris pray about starting this Bible study before he decided to do it?
--What was his purpose for the study? What was his mission?
--Did he allow his own excitement and desire to delve into the more... historical analysis of Scripture keep him from hearing God's voice about it?

I still don't know the answers to these questions, even though we've discussed them. I don't ask these questions in a position of superiority or to interrogate. I ask them because of my love for Chris & the church we've been asked to serve.
And although I find these sort of topics intellectually interesting, they don't speak to my spirit like they do for Chris. Maybe our precious congregants are more like me.
I can understand Chris's frustration.
What do we do when we encounter those who aren't ready to hear what we want to say?
Sometimes it's someone who isn't a believer; other times it's our children refusing to listen to our wisdom.
It can be your best friend, who, despite your best advice, does her own thing anyway. Or it could be your employer, who makes you think you must be speaking a foreign language, for all that's getting through to her.
It might be your pastor, who comes to visit, but changes the subject when you begin to unburden your heart. It might be your congregants that let you know that they don't like your Bible study.
If we count the number of times we are not heard, misunderstood, or shut down, we can become disheartened.
But Jesus has already borne this burden for us as well. Scripture is full of examples of people who would not hear what he had to say. The rich man went away sad, because he didn't want to hear the answer Jesus gave him.(Matthew 19:21-22). The disciples asked him questions that would surely have seemed inane had he not been Merciful God-- requests like
--show us the Father. (John 14:8)
--let us sit at your right and left hands (Mark 10:37).
Did Jesus feel the frustration of not being heard?
What should we do with our frustration?

1. Pray about you

Pray about your intentions. Are you presenting something because it interests or speaks to you? Are you talking because it makes you feel smart or wise? Or are you prayerfully considering what you should say to this person that will benefit them?

2. Pray about them

Then pray for your listener. If you feel that what you are saying is indeed something they need to hear, then pray for a softening of their heart, pray for time and opportunity.

 3. Present your message

Present your message in the best time and place for the other person. Teenagers are notorious for being ready to talk when you're busy doing something.
Speak (or write) with respect and love for the other person.

4. Put it down

Sometimes you're not the one. Sometimes you don't get to reap this particular harvest. Sometimes your husband will come home from a conference with a new nugget he learned there-- that same nugget you've been trying to give him for months.
Tell me in what ways you struggle to be heard.

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