Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Even more personal reflection on listening... and a personal confession.

           As I mentioned in yesterday’s blog post, Sunday night at our family service I showed a clip from The Lord of the Rings.  It was the part at which Frodo offers to take the ring to Mordor and to destroy it himself, even though, as he says, he does not know the way.  As I said yesterday, it is an incredibly profound scene for me, a necessary and true step for any hero to take: first to say “yes” to the call that is in front of one, but second, to admit to needing help, guidance, a map to find the way.  I love that scene and it touches me at the core.  Every time I see it, it makes me cry.  But Sunday night when I showed it, the kids were in a different place.  I was with this profound scene, but as soon as I showed it and tried sharing with the kids how it touched me and why, I had one boy pop up with “that actor was the same guy as in this other movie I saw!”  And another kid (one of my own) responded with, “Well, that was just stupid and funny.  It didn’t stick to the novel at all but made it into a clowny scene!”  Another popped back up with commentary on the other actors in the scene.  And I felt like I’d been stabbed, personally assaulted by their comments. They did not want to hear how this touched me. They did not care about the fact that we are all called to do something and that even the smallest of us, especially the smallest of us, can make a profound difference. They didn't want the message I wanted to give them. This is central to my beliefs and who I am, central to my theology and my understanding also of who God is and how God calls us into discipleship: calling on us in our vulnerability, in our weakness, in our smallness to trust and to follow even when it seems impossible and even when we do not know the way.  And the kids, frankly, didn’t care.  The service ended and as I was cleaning up projector and computer and putting cords and screens away, my daughter was still ranting on about the stupidity of taking perfectly good books and over dramatizing them with scenes such as we just saw. And that was it for me. I had had it.  I handed my car keys to David, asked him to please drive my zoo home, and announced my intention of walking home, before taking off on a "walk" that was more of a run (and would have been an intentional run if I hadn't been carrying my computer bag): working hard, breathing hard, pounding out my frustration and hurt with each step and sweating out my grief with breaths that bordered on sobs.
        “What am I doing?!” I found myself yelling in my head.  “I am not getting through.  I am not making a positive difference here.  I am wasting everyone’s time and energy trying to teach and pass on what to me seem to be profound truths but which to everyone else are just interesting cinematic opportunities to be critical and to see favorite actors.  I’m DONE with this!  I don’t need to be working so hard to put together services that make no d___ difference.  I don’t need to be spilling my heart out with the moments of revelation that we see and experience in the world including in stories and movies.  I don’t need to be working so hard here for no outcome at all.  What am I DOING?!”
        But as is often the case for me, when I come to God with the honesty of what I am feeling; when I throw out there the truth of all that is me, when I run off enough energy in my ranting that there is room finally, to do nothing else but listen, it is then that the voice of Truth can be heard.  “You are right.  That is not supposed to be about you.  It is supposed to be about them.  Your truth is not what they need.  They need space instead to discover their own truth.  Your experiences, your opinions are not what matter here.  What matters is hearing them.” 
       I wasn’t ready to hear this.  I wasn’t.  I heard it.  But hearing is only the first step.  Taking it in, that often comes later.  I finally came home, more because it was too dark to be wandering the neighborhood alone rather than because I really was done with my walk.  And my daughter was STILL going on about the movie.  I asked her to please go take a shower.  The truth was I still needed more time apart, more space from the cynicism around something I cared about.  By the time she came out of the shower, though, I was probably more ready to hear, more ready to listen.  But she surprised me.  “Mama,” she said, “I have something to say.  I realize that you work hard to put together services that are meaningful and have a message.  I realized I did not make that easy for you today.  I was not helpful.  And I’m sorry.” 
A shock ran through me.  When did it happen that my children became more adult than I am?  At what point did they surpass me in wisdom, courage and grace?  Why was she apologizing to me when it should have been me apologizing for not listening well, for not being present with her, with them?  Such is my life.  But I still wasn’t where I needed to be.  I moved again into explanation of why that scene meant something to me.  Her response?  Tears.  Probably the only thing that could have moved me out of me, finally, was seeing her pain.  Ouch.  I got it now.  I’m listening.  This wasn’t about me.  This was about her.  What was underneath the cynicism?  What was underneath the anger at the movie?  What was she needing me to hear from her, finally?
So I listened.  And we talked.  And I heard.  And today?  Today I’m realizing that my feelings of frustration and burn out Sunday night were a gift, a wake up call telling me that I’m not doing this the way it is supposed to be done.  How will this affect our evening family services?  Not sure yet, but it will.  I need to listen more.  And I need to keep remembering that if I’m really doing what I’m called to do here, it will not be about me.  It will be about those I am striving to serve.  Thank you, children of the church, for reminding me of what I am to be about.  I don’t learn these lessons easily, and I am certain there will come many more days when I need to be reminded of this.  But thank you for this day and this reminder.