Have you ever been truly understood?

Check out my guest post at the Faithwalking blog HERE.
I’m also beginning to see how much I assume as a listener.  I assume I understand what the person is trying to communicate.  So I don’t ask follow up questions.  I assume they know that I know what they are talking about and therefore feel heard.  But that assumption is pretty arrogant.  It is pretty arrogant to think that I understand what they are trying to communicate without being clear about it.  And even if I am right about what they are trying to communicate, it is pretty unkind if I don’t show them that I hear them.  This is an area that I have been working on.  I have really been trying to understand people.  My need for ongoing growth really shows up when I vibrate (get anxious).  In one of the spontaneous conversations I had this week I vibrated and went right back to old habits.  I got competitive which means that I listened to attack and defend.
Even in all that, I can honestly say that I am a better listener.  Just a couple weeks ago my wife and I had a couple over to our house.  They had a matter they needed help sorting out and my wife and I were helping them through it.  After the couple left, my wife and I sat in our living room and “debriefed” the conversation.  At the end of our conversation I asked her, “What did you notice about how you and I worked together?”  Her response is still something I am proud of.  She said, “I notice that you ask more questions than before.”

A response to Pat Robertson

Pat Robertson is quickly becoming even more irrelevant than ever.  His most recent statements should be, and are rightly being, condemned.  This week Robertson said a man would be morally justified to divorce his wife if she were diagnosed with Alzheimer’s because the disease was a “kind of death.”  According to Robertson the person is “not there” anymore.  It is baffling to me how he can arrive at this conclusion considering he argued against the removal of Terri Schiavo from life-support  just six years ago.  The cognitive disconnect is astounding if not disturbing.

Russell Moore on his blog states very succinctly what I am feeling.

 This is more than an embarrassment. This is more than cruelty. This is a repudiation of the gospel of Jesus Christ.

This couldn’t be more correct.  Husband and wives are called to love each other as Christ loves the church.  Which is not simply a nice way of calling spouses to a higher standard when it comes to their marital vows, it is a mysterious, Holy Spirit breathed sign of Christ’s love for the church.  A love that pursued, chased after, picked up, cried for, fought for and died for a bride who had left her first love.  It can be argued that the bride (the church) did not even know Christ during the moment of his greatest sacrifice.  If this is the picture marriage is to represent, how on earth can Robertson make the claim he is?

There is no doubt the anger I am feeling is coming from the personal experience I have with this issue.  My grandmother and my grandmother-in-law both suffer from this debilitating disease.  And yet, as I watch my family, especially my grandfather and in-laws, care for my grandmothers I am amazed at the grace of Jesus that flows through them.  There are few more beautiful and moving shadows of the love of Jesus towards us as sinners, outside of parenting a child, than the shadow of watching the gentle, quiet, sacrificial love of someone caring for a person who cannot return the act.  Not only is it a beautiful picture of sacrificial love, but it is a transforming experience for the caretaker.  They cannot be left unchanged by the experience.  And for the Christian, the hope is through the giving of care for the weak, we are made into the image of Christ.

Robertson McQuilkin relates this experience in caring for his wife.

I don’t have to care for her, I get to. One blessing is the way she is teaching me so much—about love, for example, God’s love. She picks flowers outside—anyone’s—and fills the house with them.

Lately she has begun to pick them inside, too. Someone had given us a beautiful Easter lily, two stems with four or five lilies on each, and more to come. One day I came into the kitchen and there on the window sill over the sink was a vase with a stem of lilies in it. I’ve learned to “go with the flow” and not correct irrational behavior. She means no harm and does not understand what should be done, nor would she remember a rebuke. Nevertheless, I did the irrational—I told her how disappointed I was, how the lilies would soon die, the buds would never bloom, and please do not break off the other stem.

The next day our youngest son, soon to leave for India came from Houston for his next-to-last visit. I told Kent of my rebuke of his mother and how bad I felt about it. As we sat on the porch swing, savoring each moment together, his mother came to the door with a gift of love for me: she carefully laid the other stem of lilies on the table with a gentle smile and turned back into the house. I said simply, “Thank you.” Kent said, “You’re doing better, Dad!”

The full article can be found here

Too often we are concerned about what we get out of our relationships with people.  We apply economic cost-benefit analysis to our relationships to determine whether they are worthwhile for us to maintain.  Has the market influenced us that deeply?  Have we reduced human interaction, even love, to such that its worth is dependent on what it offers?  Has the idea of sacrifice completely been lost?  How many of us, like McQuilkin can say, “I don’t have to care for her, I get to”?  I see this attitude in my grandfather.  I see it in my in-laws.  And it is inspiring.  That doesn’t mean it is without difficulty.  Quite the contrary.  But what is so inspiring is that in the midst of the difficulty they continue on.  When most would give up, they press on.  When there is nothing coming back to them, the give some more.  How that doesn’t give greater testimony to the love of Jesus and the faithful presence of Christians in the world I will never know.

Moore’s conclusion is absolutely beautiful and spot on.  So I will simply end by quoting it:

Jesus tells us he is present in the weak, the vulnerable, the useless. He is there in the least of these (Matt. 25:31-46). Somewhere out there right now, a man is wiping the drool from an 85 year-old woman who flinches because she think he’s a stranger. No television cameras are around. No politicians are seeking a meeting with them.

But the gospel is there. Jesus is there.