When our kids were teenagers, I ended up being the parent who waited up at curfew to make sure they were safe and all was right in their world before going to bed. Steve, bless him, is just naturally an early morning person who is self-admittedly useless after 10:00 p.m. I learned pretty soon during my kids' dating years that if they wanted to talk, I needed to listen and never, ever act shocked, because that would instantly cause them to stop communicating. I made it a habit to nod, smile, ask a few questions, and let THEM say what they wanted to say. Did they always tell me the complete, unabashed, and unabridged truth? No. But, I did learn a lot by just letting them talk. Most of the time after they'd been out with their friends or on a date, they had a lot on their minds, and I really wanted to hear anything they wanted to share. If I had responded harshly or with reprimands, the opportunity to communicate would have been lost.
When we were in Ecuador, I spent a lot of time in taxis. Invariably, the taxi drivers would ask me why I was in the country, and I'd say that I was a missionary. More questions would immediately follow about whether I was Catholic or evangelical -- those seemed to be the major distinctions. And, then THE question would come up. "What do you believe about the Virgin Mary?" I knew that was a hot-button issue in that culture, so I learned to answer in a truthful, but hopefully non-offensive way -- "I believe everything the Bible says about the Virgin Mary." I did, after all, and that seemed to satisfy the curious driver so that we could move on to other topics, such as prayer, studying the Bible and having a personal relationship with Jesus.
I had a wonderful Sunday School teacher when I was a young wife and mother whose husband was a highly-respected evangelist in Alabama. Someone asked her if their beloved pet would go to heaven when it died. This woman wisely answered, "I believe that if you need your pet in heaven, it will be there." She didn't dash the woman's hopes. She merely assured her that when she got to heaven, whatever it might take for it "to be heaven for her" would be provided. Personally, I believe that once I see Jesus, all thoughts of anything else will be gone, but my teacher didn't want to cause a debate. She just told the truth so the lines of communication could remain open.
I see too many examples these days of people drawing lines in the sand, making blanket statements that include such words as "always" or "never," and I see how divisive those unmoving stances become. Instead of having a productive conversation whereby MUTUAL understanding and respect can happen, too often we just build a fortress around our cause and its ideology.
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Please hear me clearly. There are a number of absolutes spelled out in God's Word that can never be watered down or compromised. But, I'm talking here about political views or even family relationships. Isn't it better to find ways to speak the truth that won't cause the other person to draw a weapon or to be hurt? Can't we be smart enough to listen, to seek to understand, and to provide an atmosphere for continuing dialogue? Isn't the ultimate goal one of peace and working together for the good of all?
Proverbs 18:2 -- "A fool takes no pleasure in understanding, but only in expressing his opinion."
Proverbs 18:13 -- "If one gives an answer before he hears, it is his folly and shame."
Proverbs 12:18 -- "There is one whose rash words are like sword thrusts, but the tongue of the wise brings healing."
Ephesians 4:29 -- "Let no corrupt talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear."
James 1:19 -- "Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger"
Note: There will be no post next Friday because of Cousins Camp. I'm SURE the week spent with those grandchildren will provide much food for thought in the coming weeks.