Holy Listening

Holy Listening

– Deborah Tourville

Deborah is on the Reconciliation Ministries Board of Directors.  She has served in the inner healing ministries since 2001.  Deborah is a certified Theophostic minister and has completed year one of herinternship in Ignatinian Spirituality as a spiritual director and retreat director.

Many of us go through our day bombarded with noise.  We begin by waking up to an alarm clock/radio that begins with a buzz and then delivers the news and traffic report.  We go through our day with sounds of all kinds.  When we arrive home, we find more noise with TV’s, appliances, phones ringing, lawn mowers mowing … you name it. 

With all the artificial noise it’s no wonder we have a hard time listening to each other.  When was the last time you felt listened to?  I mean heard for not just the words you are saying, but with the emotion behind your words.   Turn the question around and ask yourself when the last time you listened to someone else like that was.  For most of us, the answer would be “I can’t remember”. 

Our early ancestors were storytellers, passing on traditions from one generation to the next.  The people listening were blessed by the stories and lessons shared as much as the one telling the story.  It’s much the same for us today.  We all have stories and histories we need to share and know another will listen and hold our stories sacred and confidential.   This is what I have come to term holy listening.  The Lord began to teach me the fruits of group sharing that went beyond the individual.  I saw a dynamic where the Lord not only touched each person’s heart in a specific way as each shared, but also touched the hearts of those listening.  He showed me a back and forth continuum that included blessings of love, acceptance, humility, and service.

As a facilitator of inner healing groups since 2001, I have learned that being listened to is one of our most basic desires.  We need to know that someone stands with us in our hurts, wounds, pains, and unfulfilled desires.   An emptying and filling happens in each person as they share their story.  We learn love and acceptance through this process.  This is important, as we need the support of close family and friends to reassure us that no matter what has happened in our lives we can move forward into healing and wholeness.  As we realize the love of others, we in turn can begin to love and forgive ourselves. 

The group setting is a sacred space where we learn to reverence each other as temples of the Lord (2 Cor. 6:16) even though some may not yet see the temple within themselves.  For many this is the first time they have listened to another’s story or have shared their own.  We inwardly cry out, see me, hear me, do you know who I am; longing to know God knows my struggles.  As we listen to each other and with the Holy Spirit, we hear beyond the words, to the root, the unspoken, and into the pain, they may not yet know how to articulate.

 For the listener it is hearing (listening) as God says, “I’m here, my cross is here in their pain and I know”.  It is hearing (listening) to God say to me “love this person here, in this pain, heartache.”  In holy listening, we forget our self, focus on another, and help them as they walk with the Lord in a personal relationship.

As groups such as this grow together, listening to one another, they become “circles of care” where judgment, bitterness and anger are released and healing/reconciliation begins.  We see ourselves accepted by others and realize our self-rejection diminishing.   We become hopeful.  John 10:10 says “I have come so that you may have life and have it to its full.”  Hope brings us into the light of openness and replaces the darkness of fear and shame.  People with hope imagine a God who is approachable and loving.  They believe God’s mercy and love is for them too.  Hope and acceptance are powerful to those who have lived in shame most of their lives.  The listener(s) find their own hearts are changing and opening to a new empathy and compassion for the others.  We begin to learn the meaning of “blessed are they who show mercy, mercy shall be theirs”. 

The group bonds in Christian love and unity as we watch each other grow in confidence and positive self-image.  Everyone rejoices in being a part of this “circle of care”.  I watch as friendships and “community” forms.  Individuals now begin to see themselves not as being all alone but as belonging.  The group ‘bursts forth’ with wanting to share with each other while respecting the parameters and guidelines of the group. 

Individuals healed to this point naturally want to give to others what they have received –  healing and forgiveness.  They see themselves humbly as loved sinners.  With a deep repentance, they move into a new self-awareness and a deeper awareness of God’s mercy.  This always brings about a deeper conversion.  We experience the freedom conversion brings and want to express the joy to others.  Love experienced must be expressed – it is our human nature.  We become empowered by the Holy Spirit – the Love of God to move forward and proclaim the Good News. 

I have found as a minister no one is in a group by accident.  Isaiah 65:24 reads, “Before they call I will answer; while they are still speaking I will hear”.  God knows what we need before we ask.  Inner healing groups have helped people become the persons they are created to be.  It brings people into relationship with God, and just as importantly, with each other.  It is bringing about the Kingdom of God one person at a time, one group at a time.  It is the fulfillment of what it means to be Christian, to realize Christ’s love for and within me that can reach and touch you; and Christ’s love with-in you that transforms if I let it….me.