I like mornings at the table with Penny. We eat our breakfast, read the papers, talk.
Actually, Penny will tell you: I'm usually the one doing the talking.
But not today.
Today, I just listened as she talked about friendship and the possible loss of a friend who might move away in response to a fresh call from God.
I listened and heard not just the verbal content--words--but also the emotional content--feelings: grief, sadness, even fear--fear that she'd never find as dear a friend as the one she might lose.
To listen, not just to Penny, but also to others, I have to shut up, of course, and that's hard for me to do as a voluble person. I also have to resist rushing in and and trying to fix the situation, in this case Penny's sad feelings about her friend.
I remember a sermon that my colleague Father Jonathan Frazier preached at Christ Episcopal Church. He mentioned our Stephen Ministry, which is a lay pastoral care ministry. It involves a high degree of training of lay ministers and careful supervision.
Jonathan said that in Stephen Ministry, people learn that "listening is doing something." Hearing that, I felt freed from my natural tendency to be a fixer (I still need help with my being a talker) and at liberty then to be a listener.
Listening is not only something I seek to do with people, but also something I attempt to do with God, using my quiet time every morning for that purpose. If I'm so busy telling God things, then God has no opportunity to tell me things, be it words of guidance, comfort, forgiveness, peace.
So, today, I'm learning to listen--to my wife, to my friends and colleagues, to my parishioners, to my God.
God wants to know; others want to know: Ken, do you hear me? I do. If I'm listening.