Confession 12: The Art of Active Listening

Some days, I just don’t feel like going to church. I’m tired, or I have other things to get done, or I just like the quiet Sunday mornings bring. Some days, getting my son and myself together and to church on time and in the right attitude to worship is just too much. My mother always said that the devil works extra hard on Sunday mornings, and I’ve found this statement to be very true. This Sunday was one of those mornings for me. My husband and I were just settling in to a new home after a whirlwind move with an eight month old who was battling both an ear and upper respiratory infection. Our son and I were going to the eleven o’clock service so I could hear my husband preach, and our son could enjoy some quality time with the childcare providers in the nursery. As luck would have it, our son decided that 10:30 would be a great time for a nap, so he settled down to take what he thought would be a nice long one. My first thought was, “Why didn’t he do this an hour ago?!” Followed by, “Great! What a perfect opportunity to unpack! Surely I can listen to Chris’s sermon on tape later.” This thought was quickly replaced by the guilt of my good Baptist upbringing (the Catholics have nothing on the Baptists when it comes to guilt) and I begrudgingly readied myself and my son for church.

We were late, of course, and I was rushing. I finally found a seat after the choir cleared the entryway to the sanctuary and sat down to worship, kind of. Mostly I just looked around the sanctuary and thought about all of the nice homes other people lived in that weren’t full of mold and asbestos and that they didn’t have to abandon in the course of four days. I tuned back into the service only to find that we were singing “Shout to the Lord”, one of the music director’s favorites that he always conducts at a tempo fit for a funeral dirge. Tempted to walk out, I remained in my seat and tried to focus “on things above.” As the service wore on, I noticed that all of the songs were songs we were singing were songs of praise and thanksgiving. “Hmm..” I thought. “Could God be trying to tell me something?” This thought set off a furious debate inside my mind. On the one hand, my attitude stunk and was in serious need of a major adjustment. On the other hand, my attitude stunk and I didn’t feel like adjusting it. Besides, if God really wanted to say something to me, wouldn’t he find a better way of communicating than praise songs and choir anthems sung five times too slow?

I intended to stay in my seat and pout through the time of prayer, instead of going to the communion rail like most weeks. However, as I saw my husband stepping down from the stage to the railing, I felt compelled to join him. This is our time of worship together, and brief as it may be, it’s precious time for both of us. As I kneeled down at the communion rail, I heard God more clearly. It was time to stop being stubbornly selfish, wallowing in self-pity. I needed to actively listen.

My husband’s sermon was a biography of John Wesley, the “accidental founder of Methodism”, as my husband stated. In this sermon, my husband spoke from the viewpoint of John Wesley, and for the first time that morning, I actively listened. As John Wesley’s life story spilled out before me, I realized that I had endured no great hardship this past week. I was inconvenienced, nothing more. My attitude was ungrateful and selfish, and not at all what I was, and am, called to be. John Wesley spent his entire life working to minister to the needs of others and to bring everyone he could into the fellowship of Christ. He placed the needs of others above even his own, and gave all that he had to the poor around him, despite actual hardship and some inconvenience to himself. In actively listening to my husband’s sermon, I realized that there was a bigger picture which I was forgetting during my little pity party. The party’s over. Let the work begin.

Blessings to all,

One thought on “Confession 12: The Art of Active Listening

  1. Heather says:

    Hey Sara! How is the new abode? I hope you’re all adjusted…any news of if you’re staying or moving? Something in your blog made it seem like you’re moving churches?…Does Chris still have a blog? The last couple of times I’ve tried to go there I’ve gotten an error message.

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