Tuesday, October 7, 2014

wholly listening and holy listening {August thoughts on listening, Part 2}

{I'm focusing on the word "listen" as my One Word for 2014.  This is Part 2 of my August thoughts on listening... You can read Part 1 here, and the rest of my thoughts on listening here.}

So, as you already know, I’m a mother.  Every day.  And if you’ve been reading along in this series of posts, you’ll know I’m discovering afresh that a mother is also a mentor.  Every day.  

Each one of us, whether we realize it or not, is a mentor.  We each have people in our lives who are looking up to us, whether we’re aware of it or not. If you have an online presence, you are almost definitely a mentor to someone, or many someones.  If you are a parent, well, it's obvious who your little mentorees are. If you’re a part of a church family, no matter how young you are there are people younger than you who are following your example.  

So.  This is big stuff.

Yesterday at nap time I snuggled down to continue this book on Spiritual Mentoring I'm reading for a leadership course I’m doing through our organization, and I stumbled upon yet another eye-opening list.  Are you ready?  

This one's titled “The Three Essential Functions” of the mentor. They jumped off the page at me:

Holy Listening

Holy Seeing 

and Wholly Listening.

Not kidding.  I read those words, and I literally laughed out loud.  (Just in case I was still wondering why God had me pick “listen” as my word for 2014 - no further doubt!)  

Curious to know what the authors mean by those phrases?  

So was I.  They define holy listening as “giving attention, developing companionship, enjoying friendship, traveling the road together with the mentoree aware of the Holy Spirit in all places.”  In other words, listening to life “on the way”.  

Holy seeing is “observing the other with love, compassion, genuine care, concern and interest in the development of the mentoree.”

Wholly listening is “being fully and authentically present to the spiritual seeker and the Holy Spirit, daring the courage of a vulnerability that appropriately self-discloses to the mentor, a vulnerability in which all of me listens to all of you.”

Did you catch that whammy of a last line?  “Daring the courage of a vulnerability that appropriately self-discloses…a vulnerability in which all of me listens to all of you.”  

Wow.  Talk about a lesson in listening.

I don't know about you, but I'm not seeing much of the Messiah or Problem-Solver cropping up in these definitions, are you?  No active verbs like “wisdom-dispensing” or “problem-solving” or “rescuing” - all the things I like to think I’m good at and enjoy doing.  (After all, who doesn’t like feeling like a Super-Hero, even if it’s an illusion?)  

The verbs in that list are gentle:  Observe.  Be present.  Be vulnerable.  Even “appropriate self-disclosure”, the most active verb in the list, requires being vulnerable, which brings us back to being, not doing. 

The authors say that when someone is able to listen wholly, with all of themselves attuning to all of the other person, holy listening occurs.  In other words, in that moment, we see God together.  We glimpse Him, together, in the stories, moments, themes and patterns of our friend’s life.  

Listening is a holy practice in which people wholly attend to one another, and in the process discover the whole presence of God in that very moment.  In connecting with God, we become more whole ourselves, and more in tune with our lives and the purposes God has for us.

In the film Waking Life by Richard Linklater, there is a scene in which two artists, filmmaker Caveh Zahedi and poet David Jewell, discuss the idea of a “holy moment”.  Zahedi is talking about the fact that we usually walk around as if some moments are holy and other moments are not holy, and the medium of film is able to frame ordinary moments in a way that lets us see the holiness of each and every moment.  

Zahedi says, “And it’s like "Holy, holy, holy" moment by moment.  But, like, who can live that way? Who can go, like, ‘Wow, holy’? Because if I were to look at you and just really let you be holy, I don't know, I would, like, stop talking.”
“Well, you'd be in the moment. I mean ….” says David Jewell.
“The moment is holy.”
“Yeah, but I'd be open,” says Zahedi.  “And then I'd look in your eyes, and I'd cry, and I'd like feel all this stuff and that's like not polite. I mean it would make you feel uncomfortable.”
“Well you could laugh too. I mean, why would you cry?”
“Well, 'cause ... I don't know. For me, I tend to cry.”
“Uh-huh. Well ..."
“Well, let's do it right now. Let's have a holy moment.”
They pause in the middle of their conversation and look at each other for a long moment, allowing the moment to fill up with presence, each allowing the wholeness of himself to be fully present to the other person’s self.  And both of their eyes - ours too, watching - fill up with tears. 
Finally, as if the holiness has to be broken with words lest it become unbearable, Jewell remarks, “Everything is layers, isn't it?”
“Yeah,” agrees Zahedi.
“I mean, there's the holy moment and then there's the awareness of trying to have the holy moment, in the same way that the film is the actual moment really happening, but then the character pretending to be in a different reality. And it's all these layers. And, uh, I was in and out of the holy moment looking at you. Can't be in a holy ... You're unique that way, Caveh. That's one of the reasons I enjoy you. You can ... bring me into that.”
The “that” David Jewell is trying to describe is the awareness of holiness which emerges when two people wholly attend to one another.  God is always here.  It’s when we pay attention that we finally see Him.

When I am conversing with another human being, made in the image of God, are my shoes off?  Am I wholly listening, so that I can practice holy listening?

What about when my kids want to talk to me?  Do I fully enter into their reality, slowing down, bending my knees to reach eye-level, putting an arm around their small shoulders, turning to look at life with them from their perspective?  

Am I attending to the lives around me with every atom of myself?  

Rather than being exhausting, this kind of focused awareness is centering.  Freeing.  Living in the moment is restful, not frantic.  


Because God is in the moment, with you.  With us.  

God is here.  Now.  

Take a deep breath, and breathe Him in.  

Now, listen...  


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