Then a cloud overshadowed them, and from the cloud there came a voice, “This is my Son, the Beloved; listen to him!” Mark 9:7
Especially in this pandemic, many of us are starved for human connection. We are isolated and frustrated, so when human connections do happen, they are so precious that we don’t want to sully them with any bad news.
Spotting a friend at the grocery store, seeing a neighbor on a walk, answering a phone call from a loved one; these interactions have become priceless. Because we are so starved for connection, we treat each of these interactions like handling fine china or walking on eggshells. Only good news is shared.
As Christians, we are called to listen to Christ. We are also called to listen to each other. This call is universal and unconditional, whether the news is good or bad.
In Mark 8:31-9:8, Jesus shares hard news and Peter finds himself unable to listen. Jesus shares with Peter that he will suffer, die, but then return on the third day. Peter is like many of us; uncomfortable with hard news and eager to change the subject. Jesus rebukes him strongly. Six days later, the Transfiguration happens. On a mountain top, Jesus’ clothes are now dazzling and Elijah and Moses have appeared. Once again, Peter is trying to be helpful and make everyone comfortable. Instead of sitting and listening to Jesus, he’s busying himself. It takes God speaking from a cloud to get Peter to stop and be fully present in the moment.
When we are carrying heavy burdens, it’s hard to know where to turn. No one looks forward to hard conversations, and many of us struggle in silence. When we witness others carrying heavy burdens, we often feel uncomfortable and like Peter, try to change the subject or create distractions with busy work.
Our church does not turn away from hard conversations. Along with pastors and staff, FUMC Hurst has lay persons trained to listen and walk with people through times of burden. Our Stephen Ministers have been called and equipped to lean in and listen.
Stephen Ministers are lay persons who attend 50 hours of training, regular supervision, and continuing education on how to be a Christ-centered caregiver to those who are hurting. During the COVID-19 pandemic, our Stephen Ministers are continuing to live out their call to listen over the telephone or meeting with people outdoors.
If you find yourself identifying with Peter in this Biblical passage, here are a few tips on how to be an active listener:
- Create space for the conversation. Don’t try to listen when you cannot be fully present, are rushing to another appointment, or are distracted.
- Ask clarifying questions. Ask open-ended questions that can’t be answered with a yes or no.
- Stop talking. Don’t be afraid of silence in conversation.
- Repeat what you’ve heard. Show the person you are listening by repeating back what they said to you.
- Offer a prayer. If you are uncomfortable creating a prayer on the spot, offer to recite the Lord’s prayer or Psalm 23 together.
If you are feeling isolated during a difficult time in your life, I invite you to contact the church office at 817-282-7384 or reach out via email to firstname.lastname@example.org. Your information will be passed along to a trained Stephen Minister. You are not alone.