Monday, January 5, 2015

The Sacrament of Listening

There is someone I know who in the course of a conversation about a stressful problem you may be experiencing immediately responds with "I'll pray for you".  It almost always catches me off guard. 

Wait.  What?  Pray for me?  For that

While more faithful servants might find this comforting I am often confused by it.  For starters I am an ADD prayer.  While my intentions are pure and the beginning is sincere, I tend to wander far from my fervent base.  Your mom's scheduled surgery quickly morphs into my dinner plans and whether I should make baked chicken, chicken soup, chicken chili or stir-fry chicken.  Do I even have chicken?  Is it too late to defrost it?  Pizza instead?  Did I ever switch those loads of laundry?  Is the dog still outside?  What did you say your mom was having surgery for?

Prayer fail.

The gap between life shit and life and death shit is usually very clear to me.  Things not going my way and causing stress is not the same as going to see an oncologist because those random pains turned out to be much much more.     

Like the ubiquitous "have a nice day", the "I'll pray for you" seems to lack sincerity these days.  While there are some people you can count on to pray for you when times are tough, there are other cases when it seems to lack the heartfelt certainty that such matters require.  Does an emoticon on a Facebook comment of praying hands mean anything?  Is it supposed to be comforting?

At a shoe store recently, Will overheard someone giddy over finding some shoes she loved marked down to under twenty dollars.  "I prayed to God for some good shoes I could afford and he answered my prayers".  And the friend chorus nodded with a resounding "amen".

Is God spending eternity helping people find shoes on clearance?

What all of us need when life is causing us strife is a friend to listen.  Someone who leans in to hear every word.  Someone who doesn't try to fix, doesn't listen for the sake of responding, doesn't interrupt with unasked for advice, and doesn't tell you about her sister-in-law's second cousin that had the very same thing happen to them.  Someone who will step up to the plate to absorb some of our turmoil for the sake of making life a bit easier. 

Someone willing to get in the mud with you....

....because when you're on the receiving end of that it feels like a prayer.