Ben's story: The demands of truly listening
Excerpted from a commencement address
Fairview's Clinical Pastorial Education program
I'm a master's of divinity student at Luther Seminary. This summer, I joined three other Luther students at Fairview Ebenezer and another two Lutherans in Jay Hillestad’s posse. It has been an incredible experience.
More energy for ministry than ever before
This summer has demanded every bit of energy that I had on hand. In fact, it demanded even more than that. Every day in June, I went home, sank into a chair and desired nothing more than to just sit there like a blob. But as the summer progressed, God was at work in the fatigue. Remarkably, I will leave Fairview with more energy for ministry than I ever had before. God utterly exhausted me in order to give me energy.
Some people think of listening as an easy task, that requires simply the absence of speech. In fact, listening is much harder than speaking, and it requires all of my faculties to do it right. Listening demands so much, and it sometimes seemed like I was giving so little. How can I be giving them something if all that I’m doing is receiving their words? I learned that listening, though overwhelming at times, brought great rewards. And I learned that in my receiving their words attentively, God was giving the residents something of great worth.
And then there was group time. When my group started out we were all very friendly and we got along well together. We were pretty playful. I remember us throwing Starburst candies at each other. We never raised our voices and we always stayed positive.
And then something started to happen. We took off the kid gloves and started to take risks. We risked offending each other in order to offer criticism that was honest. It was scary, and I did lose sleep over it. But a wonderful thing happened. Hidden in the honest criticism was real care. God was using what seemed so divisive and negative; he was using it to join and knit us together.
It was only at the point that we risked separation that we really came together. And that is one of the ways that God works. God surprises us. He hides from us so that we will find some unexpected treasure. And that is what this summer has been, for me at least. It has been a treasure.