I would like to focus today on the topic of modeling love through our choice to listen to others' stories. I truly believe that actions speak louder than words... yet, all too often I slip into the pattern of "boss", directing and giving my opinion and instructions to my family and others. Quite frankly, I don't always do a great job of modeling love through listening or choosing loving words... many days because I am consumed simply with getting things done. Yet, I have found my cure for being more loving seems to be trying to do a better job of asking more questions and then just Listening!
My 4 years in California helped me develop a sensitivity to cultural differences and have allowed me to listen better, as I was the different one out there. And, quite frankly, I learned how to "Be" a little better from all of the SoCal "fruits & nuts"...that's what Midwest folks label Cali peeps, as we always seem to label folks different from us! There is a much different pace of life out there. In fact, many people in SoCal are actually Midwest transplants; and, honestly, I think a lot of people head West simply because they are weary of all of the Midwestern task-orientation and rules, plus winter weather! We have a lot of cultural rules here about what is proper and the way things should be; and many days, I get tired of the rules, too. I feel consumed by my attempts to be proper and sometimes feel less authentic because of expected "proper" behavior east of the Rockies. I also fight getting sucked back into Midwestern task orientation. Don't get me wrong, I enjoy getting things done... but, do I really need to be doing, traveling and getting that many things done? I don't think so... I managed to live 4 years in SoCal getting less done and my life was a lot more relaxed!
So, again, I am trying to focus on listening to my family and each person God allows me to meet, more than spouting my own words. Listening seems to be the only thing that lends balance and healing for me. It leads to life-giving conversation, understanding and healthy interdependent family and community life. Many days I still feel swayed to go down the path of academic education to feel more empowered and enlightened. However, hanging out with a lot of homeless people in SoCal really helped me to figure out that we can learn way more about God's love by listening to others than we can from yet another study. After all, the New Testament church in Acts was filled with intellectual idiots by today's academic standards. Yet, they understood how to listen and model love... May we all strive to listen to others and model love as well.