Lets stop, listen, ask questions and act!

I have to admit I don’t like to listen. I am an extreme extrovert so listening doesn’t come naturally. But seriously I think more of us need to listen. I mean really listen. Here is the thing I think many of us have forgotten how to listen.

Listening is not just sitting back and accepting what others are saying. It is trying to understand. I feel as though many of us have lost this in today’s world. This past week has been tough. It has been hard for many on both sides of almost all the debates. Stay home orders, Black Lives Matter, riots, protests, violent police, these topics have truly brought many of us to blows on social media, with family, with friends and even people we have never met.

As a Christian I have no problem with The Truth. I have no problem with their being absolute truth. I do however as a Christian know that because of my sinful self-centered nature I can never see any of this through a perfect lens. I am going to get many things wrong, I may use wrong words or wrong comparisons or examples but I know it is important to keep listening and ask questions.

Let the wise listen and add to their learning, and let the discerning get guidance

Proverbs 1:5 NIV

What does it look like to listen? I think it is hearing points of view I don’t agree with. We all need to stop speaking in absolutes. Memes are not about listening but often about mocking another point of view. Lastly too often all I see is the tag line if you don’t agree, shut up, or shout it so those in the back stop talking. I dont find this helpful. I want to listen and I want to ask questions. I want you challenge me and I want to challenge you. But first I have to listen and then ask questions. Some of those questions will seem accusatory, I am sorry. I think it important to ask. When I ask those questions I know i need to keep listening. Listen so you can hear the people around you. So you can help and maybe become more empathetic to those who think, act and walk differently than you do. Lets be people who listen, ask questions, and finally act to change our world one person at a time.

34 “Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. 35 For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, 36 I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’

37 “Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? 38 When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? 39 When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’

40 “The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’

Matthew 25:34-40 NIV

Ask me any question and you will get an answer. Waiting for the question in order to teach the faith.

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Recently I have started telling Middle school students they can ask me any question they want and I will answer it. These students don’t know me very well so they think if they ask something like “How are babies born?” I won’t answer. Much to their surprise, and quite honestly disgust, I am more than willing to talk about that. Just ask any former student and they will tell you I talk about that a lot with students. I think many people are terrified to tell middle school kids or anyone for that matter, to ask them anything. I have found it to be most helpful in striking up conversations with young people. I even have this same policy with my own kids. I want them to ask questions and I want them to learn. I find when I allow questions it allows students to ask and to be willing to learn.

Many moons ago I went through a class in college by Dr. Steve Arnold that helped me to articulate something I understood but didn’t know how to explain to others. The idea is that in order to teach someone something they have to give you permission to teach them. Students, adults and just about everyone will only learn something from you if they give you permission. Most often it occurs in the form of a question they have asked. You see many people still teach in a way that says you are going to learn from me because I am the teacher. What I have found with kids today is they don’t care if you are the teacher, pastor, DCE, mom or Dad. They want to know you care first and then they will give you permission to really teach them something.

This waiting for permission is hard and sometimes I fail to remember my own lesson. I do know that students and most importantly my kids learn best when I get permission. I love to have my students and my kids ask questions. Those questions open them up to my answers. It opens them up to hearing about Jesus. It opens them up to hearing about life.

My encouragement for you as parents, fellow believer and fellow Church workers is to let your kids ask questions. Let the adults ask questions. Let them learn from you. Don’t answer questions they are not asking.  Develop a culture of questions. You may be surprised by the amount of sharing you can do if you wait for the question.

1After he had left the crowd and entered the house, his disciples asked him about this parable. Mark 7:17 NIV