Friday, July 29, 2016

Can you see me now? Laying aside the walkie-talkie defensiveness

Everything is claimed to be a conversation these days. The TV news, our posts on social media, commercials, YouTube videos, podcasts. Oddly, no matter how sincerely these are claimed to be interactive, they’re truly not. At least not in the sense of true conversation.

So much of what we deem conversation is more like telling each other stuff using walkie-talkies. Only one talks at a time. Over. And then the other says what’s on their mind. Over. And neither seems to really hear what the other is saying. Over. And once we say all we want to say -- over and out!

Rather than conversation we lob slogans and epithets at each other from behind our walls of defensiveness and self-righteousness.

The word’s broader meaning -- conversation -- embraces the concepts of discussion, talk, chat, gossip, tête-à-tête, heart-to-heart, exchange, dialogue. Not only is real conversation not one way, it is not one thing. It even extends beyond mere words.

Two people in love can speak a few words, and then with glances and body language, communicate massive amounts of intimate information between them.

How? They are tuned in, focused, sensitive to each other. Curious to know about each other and to be known by each other.

Jesus was tuned in. We like to assume since he was the Son of God, he possessed some extra-terrestrial-like mind-reading capability, and that’s what gave him the edge for knowing the thoughts of those around him.

Perhaps.

But Jesus was also fully human and fully righteous. He engaged with people in, probably, the most pure sense of the word engagement. He truly saw people, truly heard them, truly knew them -- unlike anyone else could. There were no filters.

So when Jesus engaged with the woman at the well, his knowing about her marital situation was no parlor trick or mind game. He knew her and understood her need better than she did. And he engaged her in caring, back-and-forth, deep conversation.

He was respectful of her humanity and her intelligence. He did not speak down to her or blunt his words. She appreciated his honesty and responded in kind.

Okay, sure, there was an element of the supernatural at work here. But the overall conversation still serves as a model for all of us when we engage each other (and we have the mind of Christ!). Throughout the encounter, Jesus was sincere, loving, kind, direct, honest, insightful, and not in the least dismissive or superior in his tone.

Keep in mind, the Samaritan woman was persona non grata! Unclean! Not a Jew. Or, as we might put it, not “our kind.” Not “in our camp.” Not a member of our church, our political party, our club. Not what or who we generally find acceptable. Not like us.

No one needed supernatural insight to discern a lot of basic information about the woman. Like Jesus, they just needed to look at her. And it’s in truly seeing a person that real conversation with them can take place.

In other words, instead of asking another, “Can you hear me now?” we should put down the walkie-talkie defensiveness, look at them, and make it clear, “I can see you now.”

Then the real conversation can begin.

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It can be really hard to hear each other when it comes to trying to discuss intensely held beliefs, opinions, or ideas. This is especially apparent now during the Presidential election storm. How are you, mindful of your Christian witness, managing what you share and how you comment on what others share? Are you always successful in listening to their side? Are you able to remain open to challenging new ideas? Are you willing at all to reconsider your own position? In everything you share with others, are you bringing glory to God and honor to Christ? Do you speak as prompted and led by the Holy Spirit? Please share your insights and experiences in the comments!

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