July 20, 2019 • Life for Leaders
“As for Hannah, she was speaking in her heart, only her lips were moving, but her voice was not heard.”
Lamentation is a declaration that things aren’t as they should be. Hannah was barren and broken-hearted about not having a child. Year after year, her habits of lament brought her before the Lord in the sanctuary—weeping, watching and waiting. Her husband attempted to make up for the lack by giving her double portions during the time of sacrificing to the Lord. Her husband’s second wife mocked her for not having a child. To make matters worse, Eli the priest confused her worship and weeping with being drunk with wine. Hannah was hurting. Hannah was honest with her pain. And yet Hannah was hopeful that God would look upon her affliction, remember her, and give her a son.
If I am honest, I am disturbed by everyone that surrounds Hannah. Is anybody listening to her? Hannah is mocked. Hannah is inconsolable. Hannah is misunderstood. Hannah was “speaking in her heart, only her lips were moving, but her voice was not heard” (1 Samuel 1:13). Yet the God of heaven heard. The God of heaven hears the voices of the unheard. The voices of the marginalized. The voices of the oppressed. Often misrepresented. Frequently dismissed. Repeatedly mocked. Easily discredited. Brutally dehumanized. Systematically silenced.
I lean into the text and hear God whisper to me: I am listening. Are you?
Lamentation includes listening. Listening is a habit. Leadership is predicated upon listening. If Hannah had a sacred habit of lamenting, I must also cultivate a sacred practice of listening. As leaders in our friendships, in our workplaces, in our communities, in our worship spaces, listening is critical for the flourishing of all humankind. The three circles of listening are listening to self, listening to God and listening to others. Without listening we end up limiting. We limit God’s expansive imagination about ourselves and about who others are becoming. Without listening we stop short of who we could be and who others could become. Without listening we truncate lamenting. And yet, lamentation leads to liberation. God extends to us an invitation to listen, privately and publicly.
Something to Think About:
Listening to self: When was the last time that you listened to your body, your heart, your head or your emotions? What story are they telling you?
Listening to others: As a leader, when was the last time you asked those you work with or those you supervise: Do you feel heard in this workplace? How can I become a better listener as a leader?
Listening to God: What are your habits of listening and putting yourself before God to ask: “Show me my blindspots, reveal to me my transgressions, shed light into my darkness”?
Something to Do:
Get courageous. Ask a friend, a co-worker, a roommate, or a significant other, “Is there something that you have wanted to tell me but been afraid to do so?” And then just listen.
Gracious Jesus, help us to listen with your compassionate hospitality—you who unhurriedly ask the obvious questions to Mary Magdalene: “Woman, why are you weeping?” To blind Bartimeus: “What do you want me to do for you?” To the impulsive disciples: “Who do you say that I am?” Grant us the patience to sit unhurriedly in your presence to lament and to listen. Grant us the patience to listen to ourselves and grow in our self-awareness under your shelter of grace. Grant us the patience to listen compassionately to others, especially those we have hurt. Grant us the patience to have ears to listen to the unheard. May listening become both clarifying and liberating for us and those around us. Amen.