Listening as a way of becoming means discovering who you are (self-revelation) by hearing others. It requires losing yourself to find yourself says Jesus. One way to lose yourself is in service to others. Service above self say the Boy Scouts and Rotary. How does one “prepare” for or create atmosphere for service? How can we help make sure our service is about those we serve rather than about our craving to be needed/loved? Service is a balm for loneliness; however, overloading yourself with service, if it’s stressful, can result in burnout. Henri J.M. Nouwen writes in Reaching Out that we avoid burnout by working thru our loneliness into silence and from silence to prayer and from prayer to having a servant’s attitude. That’s how you prepare for service, especially a life of service that knows no limit, like Mother Teresa, whose life was regulated by the nun’s regimen and insulated by prayer/contemplation/meditation. Burnout wasn’t an issue for her.
Listening is a form of service. Are you a good listener? How observant are you? In serving, how do you maintain your objectivity—your boundaries–so as to avoid burnout? It’s part of being in the world but not of the world. It involves bare attention, mindfulness through meditation, singlemindedness thru prayer, contemplation and meditation. Our examples begin with Jesus who went to a private place (lake, mountains, garden, etc.) to meditate when feeling drained by the crowds. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit itself intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express. Rom.8:26. In our inner being we delight in God’s law. Rom. 7:22. The mind controlled by the Spirit is life and peace. Rom.8:6.
We pray such as Brother John Cassian taught us in Conversation 10 of his interviews with the Desert Fathers of the 4th Century by making our minds vessels of God. By letting go of our thoughts and need to speak and think words. Read about it from the anonymous 14th Century English monk in The Cloud of Unknowing. We pray without ceasing says Brother Lawrence who in the 17th Century taught us how to be in the world but not of the world in The Practice of the Presence of God.
Are you ready to step out? Do you know what you’d like to do? Do you know what your talent/gifts may be? Does your niche even exist at this time? Are you ready for the pressure? Can you separate/distance yourself from the guilt/demands of not having enough time and/or help? Could you say no after saying yes?
Are your ready to start learning about service? Is “why you should serve” a given? What is the goal of service? How important is knowing how to listen to and communicate with those we serve? What does it mean to have our conversations always filled with grace? Col.4:6.
Are you ready to start doing service? Do you know where you should serve? Do you know how you should serve? When are you going to be ready to serve? If you’re ready to start serving, then how and where do you feel you should start? Should you start with inward preparation or outward effort? Is it possible to do both at the same time? What would that look like for you personally? What would it look like in your family, your neighborhood, your church?
You may wonder why I wrote this paper for my blog; how all this relates to my service as a divorce mediator? I looked at people like Mother Teresa and Brother Lawrence, and now I look at how the first responders, doctors and nurses, respond to the deadly COVID-19 pandemic, by working tirelessly and selflessly, to serve and save others at their own risk. Reaching their high levels of service took years of preparation, and service to each patient takes attention to that patient’s particular needs moment to moment. That’s the approach I try to take for each mediation session with couples who have lost the ability to listen, to communicate and to live together.