Ready to Listen

There is so much more I want to tell you, but you can’t bear it now. (John 16:12)

Jesus said this to His disciples as He was preparing them for the end. His arrest, crucifixion and resurrection were coming next. Events they were completely unprepared for.

When I read this short sentence this past week I stopped in my tracks.

When I am reading my Bible, especially the words of Jesus (in red), I am looking for a message, something I need to hear right now. I always want to be careful and not end up talking to myself, hearing what I want to hear. I want to learn more and more to trust in the Holy Spirit to guide me as I read, be still, and listen (John 16:13).

So, when I read this sentence I stopped and had to think and pray about what it meant. I had read this larger story many, many times before. This time, the sentence jumped out for several reasons.

There is so much more I want to tell you, but you can’t bear it now.

  1. What if this is still true about the way God relates to his followers today? Does He still want to communicate and tell me things? Jesus said, “My sheep hear My voice…” (John 10:27). He is like a shepherd guiding, guarding and caring for his flock (us).
  2. What if God’s message to me is waiting for me to get caught up? What if I’m not ready? What if He’s waiting on me, not the other way around? “The Lord is like a father to his children, tender and compassionate to those who fear him. For he knows how weak we are; he remembers we are only dust” (Psalm 103:13-14).
  3. What if God is preparing me in so many ways as I follow Him (stumbling and bumbling), to be able to hear even more from Him? What if He has a message like this one Jesus gave to His disciples for me? What if my Heavenly Father has much more that He wants to tell me? “Long ago God spoke many times and in many ways to our ancestors through the prophets. And now in these final days, he has spoken to us through his Son” (Hebrews 1:1-2). God isn’t holding back his love, grace and knowledge from me, he’s caring for me and telling me exactly what I’m ready to hear.

What I learned this week from this single sentence is that God has heavenly things to share with me but that his revelation is always measured by his care for me.

So many wonderful things to hear and learn as I walk every day in friendship with Jesus. That relationship is the source of revelation for me and all of us.

“When we honestly ask ourselves which person in our lives mean the most to us, we often find that it is those who, instead of giving advice, solutions, or cures, have chosen rather to share our pain and touch our wounds with a warm and tender hand. The friend who can be silent with us in a moment of despair or confusion, who can stay with us in an hour of grief and bereavement, who can tolerate not knowing, not curing, not healing and face with us the reality of our powerlessness, that is a friend who cares.”  ― Henri Nouwen

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Thinking and Feeling

Fyodor-Dostoyevsky1

“A fool with a heart and no sense is just as unhappy as a fool with sense and no heart.”  

– Dostoyevsky

How’s it going as you balance your way through life these days? Are you happy AND wise? Do you feel a sense of balance or rather a slight car-sick nausea because something is out of whack? There are two essential dimensions to walking on the right path, wisdom and love. Without both we tip over too much.

I often leave meetings with an ache in my heart. I just had to say something very sensible. I couldn’t resist the temptation and just sit there in silence. The ache that came later was because my heart just wasn’t in it. There were other feelings like anger, frustration, or fear but not the right one that should have added balance to my cleverness and helped me be more wise.

all-in-the-family-episode-reflects-today-s-pro-gun-argument-40-years-agoNow that I’m in the second half of my life I’ve discovered why this balance is so important. People become jaded with all the wisdom that experience teaches and along the way can lose too much of their heart. It’s an awful feeling to keep realizing you’ve become THAT coot. The wonder has leaked out. You’re not offering any real wisdom to those around you, just one long cynical commentary. Wisdom must have heart (passion, empathy, grace) in order to be of any use, to yourself or others.

Eugene Peterson’s Message translation helps to show how real wisdom and love are intertwined in living out (practice makes perfect) our faith in community:

Real wisdom, God’s wisdom, begins with a holy life and is characterized by getting along with others. It is gentle and reasonable, overflowing with mercy and blessings, not hot one day and cold the next, not two-faced. You can develop a healthy, robust community that lives right with God and enjoy its results only if you do the hard work of getting along with each other, treating each other with dignity and honor.  James 3:17-18

Feelings must have their balance as well, especially those that reflect our deepest beliefs. Without that key ingredient of “sense” people sometimes sound half-baked when they talk about a religious faith that’s mostly feelings but faith only up to your ankles.

When was the last time you sat down and thought about how someone else must be feeling. With all the social media, who has time to talk things out, to listen, to understand? Wisdom leads you to slow down, shut down and hear things. Feelings get hurt, they swell with pride, they become so fragile. Without the anchor of “sense” they can carry you off to places that you never intended to go.

Wisdom and lovpouring_watere travel together on the same path toward heaven. If your great ideas are causing you to say things that are abrasive, egotistical, and pessimistic – just keep your big mouth shut (I’m talking to myself!). If your love for others is leading you down the road of bad decisions and hurt feelings then it’s time to grow up. The love of God is deep, mature and steady. It is eternal. It’s purpose isn’t to make you and I feel good for today. God’s love is here to transform us starting now and for eternity. That transformation only works when we are putting it into practice (maturity takes time) and pouring it out (it’s not about you).

Be wise and remember how God is transforming you into his image so that you can demonstrate his heart to someone else.

“The purpose of life is to be defeated by greater and greater things.”  ― Rainer Maria Rilke