Sights and Insights
Devotion for June 22, 2021
I therefore, the prisoner in the Lord, beg you to lead a life worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, making every effort to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. – Ephesians 4:1-3 (NRSV)
There is a saying, “Nothing but crickets,” that is used to mean silence. The point of the saying is that nobody is speaking and so only crickets can be heard. However, a limitation of that metaphor is that crickets are not silent. They are in fact quite loud. Depending on what type of cricket, its chirp can be between 80-100 decibels. They also communicate a great deal of information for those who know how to interpret them. I am not an expert on crickets in the least, but reading some websites can at least tell the basics. Most often the chirp is a mating call by male crickets, but not always. It can also be a territorial warning to other crickets. If several crickets are chirping in the same area, they will adjust their timing, and older males chirp for a shorter pulse period. In other words, a great deal of communication is happening in those chirps. Most of us do not know how to interpret them, though, as it takes a great deal of time and patience to listen and learn how to make sense of them. For us, it is meaningless background noise most of the time.
The challenge of making sense of a completely different form of communication than we are used to is perhaps a useful image for thinking about difficult conversations. It takes time and patience to learn how to hear one another. People can have vastly different perspectives, and at times it can seem as if a person who understands things differently than I do is making meaningless background noise while I am communicating perfectly clearly. It takes time and patience to hear a different perspective and understand why a person thinks the way they do. We have to learn to hear a different viewpoint and how to make sense of it. That is not an easy task, but it can be enriching when we take the time to do it.
There was a story in the Philadelphia Inquirer last week about an incident at the intersection of Kensington Ave. and Allegheny Ave. The city had announced that it would be clearing homeless people out of the area. Protesters arrived to denounce the action on Wednesday morning, while counter-protestors gathered on the other side of the street. A confrontation seemed inevitable. Over a three hour event, there were arguments and discussions. Instead of anger or violence, the groups eventually found common ground in wanting help for people who are homeless and for the neighborhood. It was not that they came to full agreement, but they were able to hear one another enough to begin to recognize where the others were coming from, and from that to establish some common ground. This is an act of listening that leads to the promotion of peace.
In Christ, we are called to bear with one another in love. The fact that this needs to be said already assumes what a difficult task that can be. It is not easy to lovingly listen to others and hear not only what they say but why they say it. Yet such an attitude is essential. We cannot listen to one another in love and assume that we are the one who is right. We must dialogue with each other, and that means being open to the possibility of gaining new perspectives through listening to each other. That does not mean being proven wrong, but rather coming to see that there are more ways to look at something than our own. In doing this with patience and gentleness, the Holy Spirit can work to bring us peace in a world where confrontation seems inevitable.