Stop Quoting The Bible and Just Listen
“I’m not sure how much help I was.” She chuckled as she threw the words over her shoulder and walked out the door.
I smiled and answered, “you came just to be with me. You sat and listened. You let me unload my feelings and then validated them. You didn’t push back and tell me that I was being over-sensitive. You didn’t promise me a perfect fairy-tale ending to my problems. You assured me that I’m not crazy. You prayed with me. You loved me, right where I’m at.”
She blushed, then hugged me again and walked to her car. I shut the door and walked back inside feeling lighter than I had in days.
This woman had breathed life back into my depleted soul and let me feel a shroud of security and community. She let me sit in the muck, complain my heart out, and air my dirty laundry. She didn’t judge or condemn and didn’t give me the Jesus answers. She never quoted a verse or shook a finger. She just let me wallow in self-pity, doubt, and fear. When I was finished, she shared her own circumstances. She aired her own frustrations and hurts, most of which made mine seem like the insignificant whining of a toddler that they were.
She listened quietly and then spoke with tenderness and grace. She didn’t discredit my feelings. She never told me, “Jesus never had a bad day,” or “count it all joy, Malinda.” She didn’t pull out phrases like, “I can do all things through Christ,” or assure me that “God will never give you more than you can handle.” These may all have been the truth, but it would have felt like salt in a wound.
Sometimes these well-intentioned phrases, the quotable promises from the bible, the catchy one-liners that so easily roll off the tongue, are wounds in and of themselves. Unfortunately, we don’t realize until later that our words sounded self-righteous and religious, or tactless and void of empathy.
Sometimes the best thing we can do is to shut up, stop quoting the bible, and listen.
As a Christ-follower, I know my bible. I’ve been through it enough times to know the promises to stand on when my world is shaking. I know that God is my provider, healer and my rock in the midst of storms. I know that His word is ever-true and His promises eternal, but sometimes this girl just needs to be allowed to cry and complain. It doesn’t mean I don’t need to be reminded of all those truthsafter the tears have dried, but in the midst of the emotion, I need to feel free to express is all, without fear of judgement, correction, or apathy.
Once I’ve unwound my puffy-faced-self from the fetal position, the world will look different. I will emerge ready to put on my big girl pants, and get things done. But, I often have to cry first.
I am a woman full of emotions (bless my sweet husband!) and that is how God made me. When I became a Jesus-follower that part of me didn’t magically disappear. He made me a feeler, and though I can plow through difficult situations and have a firmly grounded faith, there are moments where I am crumpled on the floor in a sea of darkness and doubt (and snot-soaked Kleenex).
And in those moments, I am so grateful for the friends that I can call— those who have seen me fall apart and know that silence is often the best thing to offer. They are the friends who show up the next morning on my doorstep to check-in and send messages full of silly emoji’s throughout the day. I’ve written about how deep friendships are hard, but how worth the effort they are!
And friend, can I offer you a piece of advice? When someone knocks on your door with a quivering lip and pint of Ben&Jerry’s, don’t quote the bible to them. Not immediately anyway. Let them sit and talk. Hold them and listen intently. Get them a spoon, pass the tissue box and let them be free to express their emotions, regardless of how you feel about what they share.She doesn’t need to know how many bible verses you can quote about strength and wisdom, courage and joy. Before she hears any of that she needs to feel heard. Offer practical suggestions, yes. Cover her with prayer, absolutely. But first, listen.