My daughter has occasionally interrupted a conversation with a frustrated shriek of, “You’re not listening”. To which I gently respond, “I have heard every word you just said, now try to help me understand.” (That is, if she hasn’t already stormed off to her room.) I’ve spent the past month having a lot of individual conversations with students, parents, mentors, and co-workers, and I can tell you there is abundant joy that comes when you know you have been heard or you have fully heard another person.
Check out 1 John chapter 5. The key verse in this chapter for today’s blog is verse 14: We have confidence that GOD HEARS US! How awesome it is to think that the Creator of everything hears me and knows my heart! This chapter opens with a few verses around God’s love for us and our love for God, followed by understanding how faith in Christ gives us life and overcomes the world. The connection I want to make here, though, is between God’s love for us and God’s hearing us.
David Augsberger, of Fuller Theological Seminary, is credited for saying, “Being heard is so close to being loved that for the average person they are almost indistinguishable.” We understand the depth and breadth of God’s love when we recognized that God has heard us. The Israelites demonstrated this many times as they re-committed themselves to God each time they recognized God’s actions in response to their prayers. Our deepest desire for new generations, is that they too would hear God and know that God hears them; solidifying their love for God and acceptance of God’s love for them.
In this technological age, our students are finding this love language more difficult to come by. We interact on such superficial levels so much of the time, that we aren’t really hearing each other. Now, some of that is on them. When you ask a question and they shrug and grunt, what are you supposed to hear? Well, let us hear that perhaps this isn’t the time or place for that conversation and follow-up in a way that invites them to be heard (and perhaps develop some needed social tools).
I have generally waited for students or families to come to me with their deep needs, or waited for a situation that felt natural in which to invite myself. But this month, I’ve simply sent a text or phone call saying, “I’d love to check in with you. Do you have 30 minutes or so this week that we could chat about life and youth ministry stuff?” (Most of these conversations lasted an hour or more, but the usual shrugs and grunts had my expectations set low!)
These conversations have been wonderful! I have been able to really hear their hearts again and discover ways that they have heard God! That transforms our relationship and fuels my passion for ministry. Consider asking a member of a new generation when they last felt heard by the Church or by God. Are they able to articulate all that is on their hearts? Do they have the social tools to do that? Are they able to recognize God hearing them? Do they hear God, you, or the Church? How might you help them grow in these ways? How do you need to grow in these ways?