I cried through communion yesterday and I still don’t know why. Instead of falling into the pattern of feeling either apologetic about my tears or grasping for a way to explain them to myself, I’m learning to embrace this sometimes oddly timed emotion and allow it to simply be. Everything doesn’t need an explanation.
While I think it’s important to listen to our tears, that doesn’t always mean we’ll get a diagnosis. I chose instead to let them fall, took the bread and the cup and thought about the kingdom of heaven.
“Jesus promises us the kingdom of heaven: more compassion, more, love, more spirit, more mercy, more justice, more courage, more surprise. Everything but more money. The regular practice of Communion is meant to help move us from being the citizens of an empire to the citizens of heaven.”
Nora Gallagher, The Sacred Meal: The Ancient Practices Series
Being a citizen of heaven means living upside down. We already know the first are last, the last are first. The rich are poor, the poor are rich. The strong are weak, the weak are strong.
Maybe being a citizen of heaven also sometimes means the talkers will learn to listen. Maybe I’m making that up.
I wrote about listening at (in)courage this weekend because I believe good listeners can change the world. I know this because they’ve changed mine.
Communion is a kind of listening. We may come to the table distracted and bustling on the inside, but the elements remind us of a different way to live, offering a different kind of food that comes from another land, the original comfort food.
We eat and drink and remember Christ, not just who he was on earth but who he is within us today – stumbling through Monday, jotting down the grocery list, planning out the week. More importantly, Monday brings the opportunity again to see people and to listen to them. Do we really know how to do that?
Communion is a reminder that God hears us and came down to be with us. The company of Jesus is stunning, really. How can we offer his company to others? The simplest (and also the the hardest) way I can think of is to learn to listen without an agenda.
Want some good books on listening? I have a library of them. Here are three I highly recommend, using affiliate links because that’s just good business:
Listen In: Building Faith and Friendship Through Conversations That Matter // My friend Rachael Crabb and her two friends Sonya Reeder and Diana Calvin wrote this one together. As a woman who is emotionally allergic to small talk, I deeply appreciate this book. It’s a real-life example of what can happen when friends ask curious questions and cast a hopeful vision. I want to be the kind of friend that Rachael, Sonya and Diana are to one another and I’m thankful that they have generously let us listen in.
Let Your Life Speak: Listening for the Voice of Vocation by Parker J. Palmer // I mean you’ve already read this one, right? Surely you have. It’s short and small and easy to tuck in your bag on your way to anywhere. I come back to this one again and again when I need a reminder to pay attention to the shape of my own soul and let Christ live through me whatever way he wants to.
The Listening Life: Embracing Attentiveness in a World of Distraction by Adam S. McHugh // This one hasn’t yet released so it feels a tiny bit cruel to tell you about it. I offered endorsement for this gem and if you pre-order it now you’ll get it in time for Christmas.
Basically if it were possible to combine the voices of Dallas Willard, N. D. Wilson and Jim Gaffigan, then what you would get is Adam S. McHugh. His writing is profound, lyrical and self-deprecating in all the right ways. There are few books I want to start again once I’ve finished. The Listening Life is now one of them. I adore this stunning, important book and want to give it to everyone I know.
May we learn to build in pauses before we speak and sometimes decide not to say all those words at all. Happy listening!