“To listen is very hard because it asks of us so much interior stability that we no longer need to prove ourselves by speeches, arguments, statements, or declarations. True listeners no longer have an inner need to make their presence known. They are free to receive, to welcome, to accept.” This quote by Henri Nouwen provides a picture of what he calls, “spiritual hospitality”. How odd it is to think that just listening, essentially doing nothing, can communicate a value that is termed hospitable. We live in a can-do, achievement-focused, productive society that wants to help and fix things, and yet, we have to pause and ask the question, who is really receiving the help? Are we looking for accolades? Is our drive to fix just trying to prove our own worthiness, our value? Is the other person actually looking for help? Do they want to be fixed or do they just want to be heard?
In Acts 11, Barnabas is sent to Antioch to check out the perceived chaos. He arrives on the scene and in verse 23 it says, “When he came and saw the grace of God, he was glad, and he exhorted them all to remain faithful to the Lord with steadfast purpose,” Barnabas saw the grace of God? What does it look like to see God’s grace lived out? Could it be that seeing the grace of God is as simple as listening and watching the Holy Spirit at work in the lives of people who are longing to be transformed? Barnabas was not there to fix anyone, he was there to instead receive joy from watching the power of the Spirit of God at work and then encourage the believers to keep going! Following, verse 24 goes on to tell us that many came to the Lord!
My guess is that Barnabas had what Nouwen referred to as “interior stability”. He had no need to prove himself and because of that, he was free to listen, enjoy what he saw and encourage the people to keep on keeping on. We’ve heard Pastor Ryan say, “people don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.” I’ve also heard it said that encouragement, which is a form of caring, is 90% listening. This week, pay attention to how you are encouraging others. Are you looking to fill your own bucket with compliments for your incredible wisdom and ability to fix things? Or do you have the heart to encourage through rejoicing in the good things God is doing and simply listening?
Director of Care & Counseling