I had one of those interesting interactions in the parking lot. On my way out there was a young mother who was carrying a very upset young boy, maybe 3 or 4 years old. He was screaming and yelling and in general making a scene. She kept talking in quiet, measured tones, “when you can behave we will go swimming…not today, we will try again tomorrow.” Everything she said was met with a pretty impressive temper tantrum. I was across the parking lot, getting in my car when she apologized for the noise and disturbance. I laughed and walked across the lane to talk with her and said, “No need to apologize. You are simply being a good mother. Keep doing what you are doing. It is hard today but he will learn and when he is sixteen or seventeen he will be a very mature and well behaved child.” She stopped and just looked at me for a moment…then said, “thank you… this is so hard.” Again I laughed a little, the kind of laugh that says I know, I have been there…but it will get better. I spoke a few more words…”Yes it is, but you know it is right. You are the parent…be the parent. You are helping him learn about consequences for bad behavior…better he learns that now than when he is older. Keep doing what you know to be right…it will work out in the end.” She smiled, said thank you and turned her attention back to a very unhappy, yet growing and learning young boy. He is going to be the kind of young man who will be able to help us wrestle with some of our countries deeper issues some day…all because his mom would not let him go swimming one summer day because he could not behave. We need more moms and dads and a wider community to help raise up the next generation of leaders.
Joseph and I spent the rest of the day working around the house. We took a load of brush to the dump and prepared a second load to take away later in the week. We spent time power washing the deck so we can put a fresh coat of paint on it sometime later this week. Finally we worked on some of the drainage issues surrounding the house. It was a good day and I was glad to have Joseph around to do most of the heavy lifting. To celebrate our work we decided we would go out for dinner.
On another note…I have been thinking about the chaos and turmoil in our country these days. I have a thought, take it for what it is worth. It seems to me that one of our biggest problems is that we do not know how to talk to one another. We are great at talking AT each other…not so good at talking To, or WITH each other. How did we get here? When did we stop communicating and begin thinking that simply because we are talking AT someone we are having a conversation?
I cringe when someone points to a specific event or individual and labels them the “cause” of our problem…the truth is almost always much more complicated. I do not believe what I am about to share is the cause of our problems, but it is certainly a symptom, and until we see changes I fear for public discourse and the opportunity to have true conversations. In the days of 24 hour news and the “talking heads” we are provided a model of speaking that is anything but communication. The host or producer lines up people who hold extremely divergent views so it will not take much to provoke a battle of words, this is always good for ratings. The “talking heads” arrive with a specific narrative they want to communicate and they have a plan to get their ideas across. The camera turns on and with in seconds sparks fly. There is little to no listening to the opinions or thoughts of others. The sole goal is to advance their own agenda…this is not communication. If by chance someone cares enough to be still and truly hear the heart of the other side they come across as “weak” and not being a very good advocate for their sides talking points.
Our politicians function in much the same way. In this current environment our leaders seem to take any opportunity to advance their own agenda with little thought to the ideas, cares, dreams of others. The harder they work to advance their own agenda and convince the world they are correct the more difficult it becomes to hear what others are saying. This lack of ability to truly communicate has resulted in total gridlock and we are unable to do what is necessary to meet the needs of our own people. Now…dare I say it…our religious leaders often sound very much the same. “I have all the answers, listen to me…I will speak louder and louder to drown out the voices of others around me until you agree with me.”
My heart breaks because this is so far from what we need in this day and age. It is so far from what Jesus modeled for us in the gospels. In truth we need spiritual leaders (not religious leaders) who have the heart to listen with the ears of Jesus to the cares, dreams, heartache of those who walk alongside them…only then will captives be set free. My mind is drawn to Jesus interaction with Zacchaeus. Here is a man who is on the outside, the community looks down upon him because of what he does for a living and for how he lives. Nobody wants to be his friend, when they see him coming people avert their eyes and cross to the other side of the street. Yet Zacchaeus wants to see Jesus. Up into the tree he climbs, so he can see over the crowds and partially (I believe) so he will be out of sight. Jesus stops, calls him by name, invites himself over for dinner and enters into relationship with this man who few want anything to do with. Over a meal Zacchaeus shares his life…Jesus shares his and what results is transformation and renewal, one held captive is set free! The amazing thing is that the transformation does not stop with Zacchaeus. He begins to make whole those whom he has cheated and robbed over the years. Imagine, the tax collector knocks on your door to RETURN money to you. What? Why? “Well, let me tell you about this man named Jesus who stopped and took the time to know me, the real me…he set me free.” A cascade of transformation and renewal all because of true communication over a meal where two people truly heard the heart of the other.
May I be the type of spiritual leader, cut from the cloth of Jesus, who hears and enters into true conversation with people.
May each of us see and hear those around us so that we can model the type of conversation that will set captives free.