Words of Hope: Circle of Listening 

I am always surprised by transformation. There are so many stories throughout history of people on a tragic trajectory until grace intervenes and changes the outcome. God works in this surprising way on people others have counted out or written off – jailers, prostitutes, thieves, tax collectors, traitors, lepers. These are people with stories throughout scripture that end differently than where they began. How did these transformations happen? They happen within the sacred space of listening to God’s voice of love and healing. 

These stories thrill my heart because I am on a journey to become a better listener. I am part of group contemplative prayer, or a circle of listening. I love this image. I need it so desperately because I like to stand outside the circle of listening, especially with my daughters. Recently they pointed out how I tend to ask the types of questions that aren’t necessarily fun to answer. I met with my husband Shann who asks beautiful listening questions for a few mentoring tips.  

He advised that my direct line of questioning had a proselyting and dogmatic tendency. It’s ok to ask the tough questions but in a spirit of mutuality and listening. He shared with me the story of a Quaker who made his life’s mission the abolition of slavery. He went house to house asking the Quakers to free their slaves. He didn’t preach or cajole. He asked a hard question, “What moral legacy are you binding over to your children through the institute of slavery?” He asked each family to pray and seek the voice and message of God. He fully believed that God was speaking and had an important message, but he wanted to create space and silence for each family he was with to be persuaded by God rather than by him.   

He traveled throughout the land until he died. He never saw his vision accomplished, but just after his death, Quakers became the first American Christian faith to formally free their slaves and abolish slavery.  

I would like to create more of this kind of sacred listening in my life. A space to invite my family to listen together, where we discern together what God is saying. My dad constantly asked profound questions and prayed within this sacred space, this radiant and transformative circle of listening. 

Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working. – James 5:16