>Learning to Listen

>I happened in upon a meeting at Wheaton Academy today where several international students were sharing their experiences from the past year. Afterwards, a host mom, who is also an administrator, shared her greatest learning from her time with the students – that everyone has a unique story. What seems to be plainly obvious is often times overlooked in our day-to-day interactions with people.

Duane Elmer, in his book, Cross Cultural Servanthood, makes the case for openness as one of the first steps in serving across cultures. He notes that most of our interactions, impressions, and responses to people are interpreted through our lenses of what is appropriate and meaningful. We see people through what we think they should be and we interact with them through the lens of our own experience.

Donald Miller has an interesting blog post about this today. This is why in conversation we always try to ask who someone knows or what they do – we want to find common ground because the most comfortable way to interact with someone is to experience them through our own experience.

Both Towns and Miller make the argument that to do this is to sell short so many of the meaningful encounters we have available to us each day. Even moreso, we can never serve someone appropriately and meaningfully if it is only done through the lens of what would be appropriate and meaningful for us.

True servantood, true relationships are about seeking to know the other on their terms – what motivations, desires, fears, etc. does that person have? I think that if we take the time to really listen to each other’s stories, we’ll see beautiful and compelling ways in which our individual stories are seeking to be lived out in the Ultimate Story. Maybe then our Gospel presentations and our evangelistic efforts will have even more power – because the Gospel really does make sense of real lives in a real way towards a real hope.

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