The Gift of Willingness

Last week, I had a difficult conversation with a long-time friend. While the topic of the conversation is not important, the underlying feelings of fear, discomfort and feeling unheard are. In the conversation, I felt as though my friend was “talking over me” – or more aptly put, not hearing what I was saying because she was thinking about her retort while I was sharing my opinion. In retrospect, I was doing the same thing to her. Because the topic we were discussing was somewhat controversial, the conversation became heated to the point of tears. Fortunately, since we have known each other for nearly 25 years, we were both able to step back, apologize for our part in the disagreement, and share a hug before parting. Yet, the exchange stuck with me as I drove home and spent the evening watching a movie with my husband. Where did the conversation take a wrong turn? And what part did I really play in that wrong turn?

The next morning, during my quiet time with God, I felt a nudge to take that conversation through a resentment inventory or, as friends of Bill W. would say, a 10th Step. My pride told me that a 10th Step inventory wasn’t necessary; but my willingness to grow in my relationship with God and others stood up and took action. As I reviewed the conversation through writing, listed my feelings and my fears, and was honest about where I felt slighted, I had something of a “WOW” moment. I realized that what was most distasteful to me the previous day when my friend was “talking over me” wasn’t that I wasn’t being heard by her (which is what I had convinced myself of before doing the writing). What was most distasteful to me about it was that I saw myself in a mirror of her behavior. One of the things I have never been good at is listening – really listening – to others. It is something I have been working on for years, improving upon, but am still not so good at. Whether I want to reply with the most helpful suggestions to a friend, or if I just want the other person to know how educated I am on a topic by responding with a brilliant response, I struggle with really listening to them. Being on the receiving end of what I have so often done to others illustrated how hurtful that behavior is. Definitely an eye-opener.

Another little nudge entered my heart to reach out to a trusted friend and share these insights. Again, my pride told me this step was unnecessary; and again, my willingness to grow in my relationship with God and others stood up and took action. I did call one of my most treasured spiritual guides to talk things out. She listened as I talked – really listened. I asked her if she thought I should do more work on this, pray about it, give it to God – what should I do? Her response was simply, “I’ll need some time to think on that; but it sounds like the nudges you are receiving from God are taking you where you need to go.”

All that leads to this morning. Last fall, I decided to start reading at least one chapter of the Bible every morning during my quiet time. This morning, I was at 1 Kings 3. In the Bible I am using, there is a devotional writing every so often, and this morning’s chapter was one of those times. The last line of that writing stated: “As a friend, I can’t heal or change this painful situation. But I can listen…with ears that open into my heart.”* The WOW of the previous day’s awareness burst my heart open into a spectacle of spiritual fireworks! In those fireworks, God gave me a new prayer to help me find my way to becoming a better listener: “Dear Lord, please help me to listen with ears that open into my heart.”

Because of willingness, I have been clean from my addictions for over 18 years. Because of being clean from my addictions, my mind is more receptive to the wisdom of others and God, and my heart is more open to the nudges that God sends me way, leading me to become the person He has created me to be. Because of a continued willingness within my program of recovery, all that is possible as I move throughout my relationships every day. What if I had not been willing to step back with my friend and agree to disagree? What if I had not been willing to follow the nudge toward a personal inventory of the situation? What if I had not been willing to call my trusted friend for guidance? What if I had not been willing to go to God this morning as I have so many mornings before? I would have missed the spiritual fireworks and the gift of a beautiful new prayer. A prayer that I believe has been given to me in order to help others to find their way to God as well. The gifts just keep on coming – and they all start with the gift of willingness!

Dear God,
I am forever grateful to You
for blessing me with willingness
to seek
to follow
to listen
to love…
…even when,
and especially when,
my pride tells me to do otherwise.
Thank You
for trusting me with this transformative gift.

*Quote from Carol Kuykendall’s meditation, “An Understanding Heart,” in the Women’s Devotional Bible (Classic Edition, NIV) 1994, p. 348.

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