This will be a short post, but I hope it leans more toward simple than simplistic. I've been watching, and reading, and listening to Friends' worries about our ability to communicate with each other. Christians, and theists, and non-theists, oh my! And God help us (if you accept the word "God"), but what about the Buddhists? And what do we mean by "Christ" and "conservative" and "humanist" and "convergent?" Oh, what a muddle!
Yes, it is rather. But you'll pardon me if I say that I hardly think it matters. Because whatever you believe or don't believe in terms of theology or thealogy or humanist philosophy doesn't really tell me what you believe at all. Not really. If I spent many hours with a Friend hearing about their beliefs all nicely-packaged and well-thought-out, and pretty-and-polished, I wouldn't get much more out of it (if I got anything at all) as a half an hour spent listening to that same person telling me stories about their life.
Stories about being little. Stories about their children. Stories about getting old. Stories about regret. Funny stories. Angry stories. Lively stories. Embarrassing stories. Goofy stories. Sad stories.
People tell you who they are and what they really, truly believe in their stories. Sometimes without even meaning to. Most of the time they don't even know they are doing it. But listen to them. Really listen to them. Watch their faces and their bodies move in the telling. Watch the lights and shadows of their souls move across the surface of their words. This business of stories is so very human (and so very divine).
Learn to read between the lines. Learn to watch for pain beneath bravado, for fear beneath contempt, for injury beneath humor. Learn also to see little bits of courage, and passion, and love, and joy peeking out where you don't expect it. A twinkle in the eye. A wry smile. A shrug. A tear. A pause. These little things are majestic. You can find the very heart of humanity in a sigh.
Then, instead of analyzing the story, instead of judging the storyteller, participate in that grave and beautiful humanity. Participate in that divinity. Hear people into voice. Be curious about them. Care about them. Rejoice in them.
So that's my advice. I think such a thing can grow out of our history. We are a listening people. If we can spend an hour listening for the Sacred in the silence of a meeting house, we certainly can spend a minute listening for the sacred in each other. Maybe I'm naive or even a bit silly, but it seems to me that if ever we are to be a people gathered, we have to trust in each other's worth, trust in each other's calling, trust in each other's stories. What if, as the spiritual says, God is trying to tell you something? Put on your listening ears, Friends.
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