Who’s Across Your Table? Tips for Conversing During Tense Times

Listening

It was one of those early morning scrolls through Facebook after checking the headlines. First, did anything happen overnight? What do I need to tell my teenagers about? Any natural disasters? Are we safe? Finally my curiosity shifted from global headlines to my own nation and city and eventually toward my own network of people I know personally.

And there it was.

The post was raw and honest and brave, and so there’s no point in my rephrasing my husband’s cousin’s words:

FB Post anonymous

Did you catch it?

I’m not sharing a link to the article, nor am I even sharing the title with you, for our discussion today is not really about the National Anthem controversy at all. It’s about how we interact with one another.

So, did you catch it?! “But the more conversations I engage in with like-minded people and not…” It’s simple, but it’s a mountain’s worth of strength as we climb the grueling, uncomfortable hike toward living in community.

Whether you’re unsettled because what feels normal appears to be unraveling or you’re overwhelmed by how far we need to go — there’s value in this woman’s “confession” for all of us. Her courage and ability to risk can be a model as we engage in conversation about current events and social justice issues and even doctrine. Really, this is a model for us as we talk about anything.

So, who’s across your table? Who are you having conversations with? Are you engaging with people who don’t look like you? Who don’t vote like you? Whose experiences and backgrounds and perspectives are different than your own?

Who are you engaging with, but for today: Who are you listening to?

Imagine the impact it would have on our communities if we saw someone kneeling and said, “Let’s go to dinner. Tell me WHY you’re kneeling. Tell me more.” Or, if we heard about a co-worker’s commitment to standing, and we were hungry to hear where her passion and perspective comes from. Or if here in St. Louis, we saw someone protesting and said, “Let me take you to coffee. Tell me WHY you’re protesting.”

Are we brave enough to listen to the counter-narrative? Brave enough to consider to it?

It’s really validating to have someone listen and nod and agree with every statement you make. I know because I like that feeling. I like the affirmation. I feel intelligent and valuable and worthy. But it doesn’t sharpen me. And it doesn’t motivate me to move toward others who are different. And it certainly doesn’t help restore the brokenness I see all around me.

Are we brave enough to leave the echo-chamber and take a seat at the table? When done in humility and with a posture to hear and learn, the conversation is rich, I promise. It’s as rich as an abundant feast that satisfies cravings and the deep, deep hunger you didn’t even know you had.

” … My beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger; for the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God.”  James 1:19, 20

Or in another translation:Listen, open your ears, harness your desire to speak, and don’t get worked up into a rage so easily, my brothers and sisters. Human anger is a futile exercise that will never produce God’s kind of justice in this world.” 

It’s so hard.

And are we brave enough take Paul’s advice to the Corinthian church who was struggling all over the place to live in unity? Dare we be patient and kind? Are we brave enough to say “no” to boasting and arrogance and rudeness? Paul describes love as not insisting on your own way, not irritable, and not resentful. Nor does love delight when someone on the other side messes up. Rather, love “bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.”

We can do this. I know we can. Through the power of the Holy Spirit who whispers conviction yet comforts us just the same, we can do this.

Are you ready to go deeper? Ready to listen? There’s a seat at the table right here for you.

photo source: Tim Wright on Unsplash

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