From the moment our boys wake up until the moment they fall asleep they talk. And talk. And talk. Constant commentary on all aspects of life. It’s exhausting (and beautiful and hilarious). My wife and I crave the hour or two of silence we’re afforded after they finally conk out at night.
For the past couple years our oldest has battled with stuttering. It can get particularly bad when he’s going through a wild growth spurt (which seems to be about every other month). As he struggles to produce complete words and sentences his mom and I attempt to maintain a positive and empowering posture - a body language, facial expression, and verbal response that allows him to feel received and safe with us.
Some days are harder than others. As we wait for the words to come out it can produce a powerless feeling in us. We don’t want him to feel so vulnerable. It makes us feel vulnerable.
Research shows that many people feel uncomfortable listening to someone who stutters. For some there’s even a physiological response of faster breathing and a change in skin color. Eye contact is hard to maintain as somehow the struggle of the one who stutters elicits a mirroring effect of vulnerability in others.
What is it about poverty that makes us feel so vulnerable? Why does listening to stuttered speech, walking by a homeless person, or hearing someone describe how they feel so stuck in depression create such fragile and confusing emotions in us? As we experience the awkwardness we wonder when we can check our phone, turn on the radio, find a drink or whatever we prefer to escape our vulnerable response to these situations.
Vulnerability begets vulnerability. This is why it’s hard to find people who are willing to be truly present amidst pain. It’s hard to find good listeners. Good listeners are vulnerable. The book of James implores the reader to be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to become angry. Our culture doesn't seem to get that.
Listening holds such an understated power. Like a linchpin that keeps a wheel or a door where it needs to be redemptive listening is one of the most overlooked yet powerful qualities a human can possess.
The redemptive listener approaches the other through the lens of belonging rather than belief. Unlike the majority of us, the one who really listens values fellowship over competition always holding a preferential option for the poor among us.
What if God stutters?
Would we be willing to wait and listen as the Word completes his words?