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We leaned against the elevator walls staring but not seeing, numb from the not knowing. My stomach sank as the cube rose, then stopped, each floor marking a unique fear. Third floor – surgery. Fourth floor – newborn intensive care. Fifth floor – hematology and oncology. Please God, not that. Finally, the 6th floor: cardiac and pediatric intensive care.

As the doors spread, all I could see were the amber curls of a toddler-sized bear. Clutching it were the two dearest people outside of our family. Their eyes showed me their knowing. They had walked the valley of the shadow of death, too.

My numb melted into tears of relief as I sobbed into her shoulder and snotted on the bear’s head.

That afternoon we sat quietly watching the red, green, and white lines zig up and zag down across the monitors, numbers blinking and ventilator swoosh-beeping as it blew in and out of our baby’s lungs. They didn’t say much. They didn’t need to.

I recently read this post by Sarah Markley about listening. She wrote:

“…In listening, we see someone. And in seeing someone we see the soul God has intricately formed. And in that, we love.”

Everyone says that when you can do nothing else, you can pray. But praying is what you do for a person before God.

Listening is what you do with a person who is hurting.

When you can’t do anything else, you can listen.

When you can’t find words, you can be.

To listen you must make friends with silence. Ask real questions. Wait for them to lower the drawbridge of their heart and stumble out the broken words of a broken person. Turn your wandering thoughts to this moment, aim your heart here. Share their hurt.

And ignore the clock.

It’s faster to respond, “I’ll pray for you.” It’s easier to toss out simplistic solutions.

But it is hurtful.

James 1:19 reads My dear brothers, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry.

I’ve always understood this verse to say that listening is how you prevent becoming angry. It does, but it says more than that. It commands us to listen and to slow our replies. It commands us to take time for others.

Choosing to listen is a life-giving grace-extending people-strengthening act.

Join me and choose to stop, put your cell phone away, and hear what your loved ones need to say. Demonstrate love by being there, even in the silence.

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