When you look at me what do you see? Chances are that the conclusions that you draw are partly correct and partly incorrect. The things that you see and conclude about me may not match anything that I know about myself.
Today I had the privilege of hearing the story of a local business man who is blind and uses a guide dog. He shared with us funny stories about his life, but then he said something that cut me to the core. “When I walk around with my guide dog I have a different experience than the times I walk with my cane. People will grab my arm to help if I walk with my cane. When I walk with my dog people ask me if and how they can help.” He did not say this with any kind of malice, frustration or disgust. He said it merely as something that he has experienced.
This got me thinking about how many times we jump to conclusion about people and make errors in our assessments about them and their abilities.
If someone is young, do we think that they cannot understand or appreciate quiet reflection? If someone is older, do we think that they could not enjoy modern music or the high energy events in our community?
What about someone who is pierced and inked with a vibrant color of hair? Do we allow for the chance that they may be the most compassionate and generous person in our town?
What about the times that we make conclusions about ourselves that turn out to be untrue? “I could never like this, or do that?”
No matter what we conclude, we do not always get it right. What is important is that we recognize this and remain willing to learn the truth. Much of this learning requires that we do a great deal of listening.
This is true for our understanding of God. Whether we hold to or reject tradition all of us should use caution as we learn about God. We have to do a great deal more listening to the faithful of days gone by and the faithful of this age. We need to read, talk with each other, and listen for the leading of God’s Spirit who is just as active today as any moment in human history.
So what do we see? Once we decide are we still willing to learn through listening?