Are you listening?

It Seems to Me

By Steve Dabrowski

A friend tells a childhood story about feeling so ignored by her family one day that she threatened to turn a table into a toilet.

Although I wasn’t there to witness this, I’ll wager she got everyone’s attention. I’ll also wager that many of us reading this can understand such an outburst. So much is happening in the world that just doesn’t make sense, and it causes us to feel invisible, mute and unimportant. Wouldn’t it be great to be able to shout something that would cause others to hear and value us?

I have recently been blessed to find a new primary care physician. My former medical provider is a nice guy, but I never felt listened to. It was common for the doctor to be more than 20 minutes late for an appointment, rush into the exam room, race through a conversation, then write a prescription and tell me to come back in six months. I never really felt he understood what I wanted—to be as healthy as possible while taking the fewest number of medications. Following a recent event where my medical needs were overlooked, I realized the doctor-patient relationship was too important to spend any more time with someone who didn’t listen to me.

An acquaintance of mine is a well-known doctor in Evansville, so I decided to email him to see if he might suggest someone to replace my former doctor. To my surprise, he offered to add me to his already full practice, and I gladly accepted. I’m not mentioning his name here because his practice is extremely full, but I really want to give him the credit he deserves. A week and half later, I saw him for my first appointment; it was a night-and-day contrast.

One comment sums up my new doctor, “Steve, tell me the history of your asthma: I find that someone’s story often tells me more than anything I will uncover in an examination.” We spent the next hour talking about my asthma – just my asthma. No detail was left unmentioned. “Okay, here’s what I think we should try. I want you to do the following; then let’s get together in six weeks to follow up.” When I got to my car, I texted my wife, “I think I’ve found the doctor I’ve been looking for in Evansville.” Our follow-up visit was exactly the same, and I left his office enthused and hopeful about the care I had received – and I have no reason to expect it won’t continue. It was exhilarating.

When was the last time you felt listened to? I don’t mean just heard, but understood? It isn’t a common experience today, is it? And yet, when we find those rare few who really care and who try compassionately to understand what we’re saying, the result is healing, cleansing, invigorating.

It seems to me that is the story of Lent: God understands us so well that He listens to every word that forms in our head. Knowing our pain, our suffering and our sense of hopelessness, He breaks into our world in a way that even the deaf can hear: “I know everything about your life, even the things you hide away from me; I know your history, I understand you. I love you, and I want to help you through this life.” I know I sometimes overlook the fact that God gets nothing from the Passion of His Son, it is all for us.

We still have just under half of Lent before us – plenty of time to speak to God, trusting that He not only hears us, but He listens to us, He understands us just as we are. We don’t need to coerce God with threats of bold behavior. He has already drawn near to us, as Scripture reminds us, closer than the very air we breathe. God’s nearness, His understanding, is healing, cleansing, invigorating. In these final 14 days of Lent, let’s cry out to the God who died to show us we are known, loved, and listened to.