David Ott and I drove several students home from church tonight. We started asking questions and, in turn, began hearing stories. In the short trip, we heard about parents who are never at home, close family members who have died, drug addictions, gang fights, gang protection, multiple gang affiliations, prescriptions that are wreaking havoc, overwhelming stress, and the inability to deal with stressors. This was from only 3 kids! We heard these tales and mostly just listened. The last student we dropped off started speaking freely about many things, and we had a very positive experience with him. I hope he feels the same.
This van ride reminds me to take time to start conversations and listen. This simple task is quite possibly the most overlooked and undervalued opportunity to show God’s love. I get very busy planning events and doing ministry. I get very busy planning outreaches to spread the good news and show God’s love. In the meantime, I am afraid I may be too busy to speak to people. I need to slow down and just interact with someone. We don’t have to be eloquent. We don’t have to be charismatic. We don’t even have to have answers. We just have to listen. To be there, in the moment, with someone.
The trouble is, this is messy. I don’t know what they will say or how I should respond. It is nice-and-neat to plan a service with these songs and these videos. It is less problematic to focus on a production in which spectators will, well, spectate. Often, I attend a service and listen to music and hear a sermon, and don’t really connect with anyone there. There is no time. I think God wants us to make time. I think he wants us to speak to each other openly and honestly. I think God wants us to listen more. I hope I do.