Good conversations can be like tennis. You hit the ball from your side of the net to mine, and I hit the ball back from my side to yours. (Tennis is no good when someone catches the ball and won’t send it back.)
But sometimes, a good conversation needs to be more like digging a well.
When we begin sharing about our lives and ourselves, we begin close to the surface and work our way down. Consciously or unconsciously, our hearts are asking questions like:
- Is it safe to say more?
- Will I be loved and accepted if go further?
- Can I tell them about ________?
- Do I want to find out what’s down here?
Tennis (even a friendly game) can unwittingly answer, “Don’t go deeper; hit the ball back.”
The heart behind these questions begs not so much for more words but for silence, for listening. For the kind of conversation that digs a well.
In this kind of conversation, we both dig. You dig by what you say; I help dig by how I listen. Instead of offering wisdom, advice, Scripture verses, or prayers, my major role becomes to sit in the presence of Christ in silent attentiveness to what you have to say.
For all of us, we practice listening because so long as a well remains undug, waters of the soul will go untapped and thirst will go unquenched.
We practice listening because silence loves in ways words cannot.
When we fight our reflex to speak (which kicks in strong especially when we sense the one speaking is feeling fear or shame), and instead leave room for another person to say more, it can be like watching a miracle unfold:
Hard, crusty ground is removed layer by layer until you can almost hear the deep water running below. It longs for light and air. And when it finally breaks through, it rises like a spring bringing life to places long forgotten.
Incidentally, I wonder if sometimes we experience God’s silence and think Him uncaring, when actually He so loves and longs for the deepest places of our soul, that when we think we’ve said it all, His ear remains to the ground listening for more.
Certainly, He listens longer than we’re used to.
When was the last time someone listened well to you? Leave a comment below.