I Wanted to Scream!
Saturday - June 13th
Scripture to Read for Today's Devotional: James 1:19-20
Today's Selection from our Sermon on the Mount Reading Plan: Matthew 5:38-48
My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this:
Everyone should be quick to listen,
slow to speak and slow to become angry.
Many years ago, I had a phone conversation with a person I did not personally know. We were from different parts of the country, but both of us were in the ministry. We had several things in common to chat about and had been put together by a mutual friend. That friend believed we would find a great synergy that might help us both as local church pastors. He felt like the other pastor's journey would be useful and encouraging to me at that time in my life and ministry. It was a decent call. I enjoyed it, at first, and then I could not wait to get off the phone.
I had planned to learn from some ministry experiences this other pastor had that I had not faced. That was the reason our mutual friend connected us in the first place. The person on the other end of the phone call had his agenda, and it had to do with telling me specific stories and ideas he had in this one particular area of ministry.
Our one-hour phone call ended without even touching on the subject matter that was the whole reason we had been connected. Now here is the real kicker. Anyone who knows me personally will struggle with what I am about to say. The guy on the other end of the call out talked me. It is true. He must have talked for at least 55 of the 60 minutes we chatted. At one point, I wanted to scream. By the thirty-minute point in our conversation (using that word loosely here), my blood boiled. He heard nothing I tried to say. He had not even listened to our mutual friend's reason for connecting us.
At about 45 minutes into the call, the Holy Spirit just whispered the words of a verse I had memorized long before. I heard part of James 1:19. "Be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to become angry." Why was God reminding me of that verse? I had no choice but to listen. This guy would not let me get a word in edgewise. As the last 15 minutes passed, my internal anger and resentment had almost escaped from my lips a few times. Thankfully, I never shouted, "Shut up, would you please just shut up!" But, I wanted to shout it, and I wanted to so badly!
What stopped me? The Holy Spirit's reminder of that verse. For those final 15 minutes (which seemed like an eternity), I kept mulling over "quick to listen" and "slow to speak." I focused on listening so I would not get upset and say something that would embarrass us both.
The call ended. I determined that was someone I would never again engage in a conversation, whether in person or over the phone. A few days later, my friend who made the connection called me and said, "Shawn, what did you say to him?" The tone he used was intense. "Nothing, um, nothing," I replied. While giving that response, my mind raced through the conversation of days earlier. Had I told him to shut up without remembering? Did I make sounds on my end of the chat that implied I was frustrated with the conversation? What had I done or said to warrant my friend's call inquiring what I said?
"Shawn, you saved his life on that call!" I stuttered out my reply, "Wait, what...? what...? wait...."
My friend went on to tell me that the pastor I'd talked to who would not stop talking had just come through a tough situation in his church. He had thought about giving up. Leaving the church and just finding something else. He had ended our conversation and then called our mutual friend to tell him that my listening skills were remarkable (I can hear those of you who know me personally laughing). He felt he got so much off his chest and felt a lot better when our call ended. He had told our friend that God used what I said on the call to help him get his perspective straightened out.
Wow! I hadn't seen that coming. Who knows what our heeding the words of James 1:19 will do for others! I did not think I had handled it well at all. After all, in my head, I was screaming at the guy through most of the conversation. Since I am aware that I am not the world's best listener, God taught me a valuable lesson. Some people going through tough things, private pain, simply need to be heard. They need a listening ear.
Today, try to say fewer words than the number you use. Seek to listen to what they are saying. Listen to what is on their heart. You may not have answers, or you may not even know what the conversation is about, really. But, you can be quick to listen and slow to speak! Give it a try today. Ask God to slow your tongue down and speed your ears up.
Growing in our ability to be quick to listen and slow to speak can impact others. Some folks just need to be heard!