I love to listen.
I am not always the best at it, but I really love it when the opportunity presents itself.
I understand that it really is an art form.
I have found over the years that to really listen is to also hear what is not being said as well.
To hear the unspoken words.....
To discover them. To uncover them. To bring them to the surface. To open that up for discussion.
That is a gift.
And if you can find yourself a confidante who can hear the unspoken words... hang on to her.
If she can tell even over the phone, by the inflections in your voice that something is wrong.
Even though you are telling her everything is fine.
Hang on to her.
Women pass the word "fine" around like an after dinner mint.
We are fine. I'm fine. The kids are fine. Everything is fine. I feel fine.
Many times, over the years, I have responded on the other end of the line...."No you are not."
"Talk to me."
Then the tears come....
And from years of trying to work on my listening skills, I can say that there is a lot
that is stuffed underneath the four letter word I will call fine.
For starters it can mean this....
You don't really care. So I'm not going to tell you what is really going on.
You don't have the time.
If I tell you what is really going on, you will judge me. criticize me, gossip about me or drop me like a hot potato.
So instead of being real. Having a real friendship. Walking in true friendship.
I'm just going to offer up a small piece of myself, just the surface, if you're lucky.
And the two of us can just wade around in the baby pool together because I am not about to go into the
deep end, called my reality, with anybody.
I might drown in discovering that my real friends aren't really my real friends after all.
And I can't handle that truth. So I'm just going to hang out right here in the shallow end.
I don't think that is what God meant when He said it is not good for man to be alone....
Because when we only go surface deep with others- when we do not allow the depth of our hearts to be known- even though we may have a lot of friends, we are really still alone.
And lonely is not a place that God has called any of us to reside.
There are married people who are lonely. The most "popular" girls in our towns are lonely. Pastors and ministers and wives of clergy, who pour their hearts out for the gospel on a daily basis, feel completely alone.
Because the deep end is scary.
And sharing the authentic pieces of our life with someone takes courage.
For some of us, the thoughts of possible abandonment from "friends" and church members and parents at school is just too much to think about. It's easier to play it safe and just continue wading around in the shallow end of life.
But the truth will set us free......
I would rather have one real friend, who really knows me, than a thousand "friends" who only go surface deep with me.
I would rather have one church service, with one real pastor, sharing his real testimony, than to listen to something else any day.
I would rather have one friend tell me what is really going on in her life- the good, the bad and the beautiful - than five friends who only want to talk about surface things.
It is a dance of truth and honor and trust to begin to allow someone to hear the unspoken things in our hearts. And to offer that same gift to someone else as well.
It is, for some of us, starting over again with fear and trembling in friendship, in leadership, in marriage and in ministry.
It isn't easy.
It is scary jumping into the deep end.
But we can't really swim in the shallow end.
We can't jump off the high dive or do a back flip in the shallow end.
But God hasn't called us to live this full life, this abundant life, simply standing in shallow water, or keeping everything surface level.
He's called us out into the deep.
Allow the unspoken words to come forth sweet friends.
Allow the deep chapters written in you to begin to come forth.
And then listen for the unspoken words in someone else....
This is how we can demonstrate the gospel.
This is how we can demonstrate who He really is and why He really came.
And every single time we hold back, every single time we live life like we are less than, every single time we tell friends that everything is fine, when it really isn't. Every single time we refuse to share the deep places or refuse to really listen to the unspoken words in the heart of another - we hold back the gospel.
And we need the gospel.
In action and in deed. In the shallow end and in the deep. In the spoken and in the unspoken.
In the painful places and in the beautiful ones. In the days of living and in the days of dying.
In the days of the just things and the unjust. In the days of pouring rain and wretchedness. And in the days of birthing and living and writing and singing.
My hope is that this would be a year of listening and hearing and sharing the unspoken words in one another sweet friends. I pray that the word "fine" would leave our vocabulary and that as we have the courage to offer up the deep places, the scary places and the real places in our hearts, that God would meet us there with the gift of a genuine friend......