Monday Morning Pastor – Can You Hear Me Now?

March 20, 2018

Note: Each week we will have a guest writer who will share a few of their personal thoughts on Sunday’s sermon. Unlike Monday Morning Quarterbacking, from which this series gets its name, we aren’t looking to critique so much as share how we have been personally impacted. This week’s post comes from Rob Devereaux.

Can You Hear Me Now?

We all know the feeling of being unexpectedly disconnected. Depending on our expectations, we may feel anywhere between ’it’s no big deal,’ to annoyed, to frustrated, to downright angry. You know how you feel.

Sunday’s sermon was about keeping connected to our God and others we value and love, and how easily we let our activities and ambitions of life get in the way of keeping connected. We have too often put the things we “hunger for” (like security, fun, opportunity, significance) above the people we should be responding to. (Except, of course, for the very few of us who hunger for being connected. And even they are inconsistent in this.)

Now we have all kinds of relationships and, regarding our connections with them, it’s important to understand the differences because we have different expectations of each type of relationship. Some of these relationships we just find ourselves thrust into – born into a family as a child or sibling and as a schoolmate or workmate. Some we chose to connect with –as an acquaintance – a supplier or customer, manager or subordinate, leader or follower. Some we go further and have committed ourselves to – as our spouses, our children or friends and, most specially, as a child of God, follower of Jesus and fellow traveler with the Holy Spirit.

Strong connections define strong relationships. Bonding is needed to weather the storms every relationship encounters, with all its inevitable miscommunications, wrong assumptions and violated expectations. We connect with those we love, and we love those we connect with – it makes little difference which comes first. But we know a few things for sure. Connecting is critical to a relationship of any depth or longevity, and if we want to have a strong connection we know we must have the belief and show the attitude that connecting is not as much about us being understood as it is us understanding the other.

Connecting starts with paying attention – the act of attending. And they have to know we are attending, with the right eye contact and body language pointed toward them, not just speaking loudly across the room. With prayer, this act of attending also takes a physical positioning that helps us focus on God. This is not about multi-tasking.

We spend time not just hearing them, but actively listening, spending focused time, asking questions, trying to understand their story, how they perceive, what they believe and value, how they think and feel. In short, we empathize. (God even had all of what He wants and values written down for us.) This empathy takes our being open and authentic, not positioning ourselves, and working to get a real, concrete and accurate sense of what’s going on with them and what they want and, more importantly, what they need. God told us what He expects from us and Jesus has also modeled for us His actions of attending and active listening in His prayer life and ministry. All of this is, in no small way, what He calls “loving well.” Think of how Jesus connected by asking probing and leading questions.

This business of being really connected to those we are committed to is no small or easy task, especially when the ones you want to reconnect with can’t find the words for their doubts and frustrations or how they hurt. Or maybe they just think they’ve put the disconnect behind them. You can be sure, they haven’t. This is simpler than it is easy. It’s especially difficult to re-set the expectations of being reconnected. If we’ve lost the trust being connected brings, the re-set takes time and consistent repetitive action of attending and active listening – and maybe more.

Being connected begs two questions. What should we expect if we let certain relationships stay disconnected? And, what kind of effort will we put in the effort to reconnect? If the relationship is an acquaintance, then it probably won’t matter much. But if we are disconnected in a committed relationship, as with God, with our spouse, with our children, even with the workers we are responsible to, then we know that, if we keep the disconnect up, the relationship will eventually be degraded from committed to acquaintance or less. We all know people who have disconnected from their family. Now with God, we know He hasn’t moved – so it’s on us to reconnect with Him. But we humans are not as perfectly forgiving, long-suffering or loyal as God. Even our children will only take so much disconnectedness before they move away emotionally.  We know this because we have been children too. We probably brought our ways and expectations of connecting from our childhood. Think about your relationships for a minute and decide if you need to do a better job of connecting, and so do a better job of attending and actively listening.

We are reminded by Jesus’ actions that, if we really want to deepen the connection, it is about us and our ability to-respond (our responsibility) to others, regardless of their response to us.  Our effort to connect is all about love and it must be unconditional – just as God has no conditions on His love and His connection with us. We all know how difficult this reconnection (maybe even reconciliation) process can be with our loved ones – but we know we need to do our part first. That’s God’s example, and what Jesus modeled for us and the Holy Spirit’s message, if we’ll only listen.

As we go back to reconnect with those we could have loved better, remember, we’ve all felt the frustrations of lip-service and inattention – and we’re all quite tired of it.  Let’s stop putting our loved ones, including God, in the position that they have to ask us, “Can you hear me now?”