Posted by: sarahkennedy33 | December 5, 2005

An Amazing Calling

I was at Starbucks about two weeks ago wearing a shirt from my favorite band “Late Tuesday” when this older couple (he was 60, she might have been a bit younger) asked what it meant. I explained they were a band in Seattle, and then they wanted to know why I was down here and they found out I was in seminary. That was all it took to get them talking and talking and talking! They told me all about this experience they had in this Methodist church here in Burbank where they had a woman pastor who was so welcoming and embracing of them and their 12 year old autistic grandchild. This man told me that he takes his grandchild to church every Sunday and to their wonderful VBS program each summer and they just embrace this little boy there. He told me all about how he grew up Catholic and his wife grew up Protestant and that they were raised thinking blacks were unacceptable but here is this black woman pastor at this church who is truly amazing and they had never encountered that before. They wrote down the church address and their phone number and wanted me to come to their house for Thanksgiving and on and on and on!

I got to thinking that I feel like these things have been happening more and more since I’ve started Fuller. It’s like once people find out I am in seminary they start talking—even though they don’t know me at all, I am all of a sudden a “safe space” and they want to be heard. While it isn’t always convenient to listen to someone you don’t know for a ½ hour, it is such a gift! What a need the people of this world have to be heard, to share their stories to feel cared for. I think the fact that they are willing to spend a ton of time talking to some strange young girl that they don’t know speaks volumes about how desperate our society is to have their individual stories heard, respected, and honored. I am kind of overwhelmed with the idea, but I think God is calling me to spend my life really listening well to people and their stories, to just get to sit and let them talk because it seems like that need isn’t being met for so many people. What an amazing calling!

It is also interesting to me that once people find out I am in seminary, they want to tell me their own personal stories of being wounded by the church (I don’t seem to get too many people excited to tell me their stories of amazing churches!). While at first I was uncomfortable hearing people’s stories of things they thought were wrong with the church because I didn’t feel like I could say anything in response to them (I mean, I wasn’t there, how can I fix something a pastor said 25 years ago?!) I am finding that most people really don’t need me to say anything, they don’t expect me to respond, they just want so desperately for someone to listen to this painful story they’ve carried around for so long. An injustice was done to them and they don’t expect me to fix it, they just want to be heard. What an incredible gift to be able to give someone–the gift of being heard. How often do we truly do that for our neighbor? We think we need to say the right thing in response to their stories or pain, when really, I am learning that often silence speaks ten times louder than any “cookie cutter” answer. May we all continue striving to be people that listen with our whole hearts!


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