Just as important as your ability to listen to God and the ways that God speaks through you is your ability to listen to others. Sharing experiences with others is an essential part of being human, and simply allowing someone the opportunity to express their feelings of joy, sorrow, hope or doubt is sometimes the greatest act of service that you can perform. Not only this, but I have also found that listening to the stories of others allows me to momentarily walk in their shoes, and opens my mind to new ways of being human, being Christian, and viewing the world. I am particularly thankful for the way in which the youth program at Westminster has allowed us to serve each other by providing a space in which we can share our stories and strive to become better Christians together, and youth group has taught me the importance of listening to the experiences of others with an open heart and open mind.
I didn’t truly recognize the power of this simple concept until one particularly eye-opening moment in my high school experience, when I asked a teacher of mine a simple question. She mentioned in class that she had been unable to finish grading tests because she was working on a paper for her masters, so I asked her after class what the topic of her paper was. To my surprise, she was writing about the important role of transgender youth in sports, despite the fact that she identifies as a conservative, both politically and religiously. She cited experiences from her childhood and adolescence that had led her to believe that inclusivity is more important than attempting to make others’ morals match your own. After hearing this, I was beyond thankful that I had inquired about her paper, because hearing this one little piece of her life story, which was radically different from my own, opened my mind to the inadequacy of labels such “conservative,” “liberal,” “religious” or “secular.” After I simply lent her an open ear, my teacher shared a beautiful and unexpected light with me, which I can now share with the world.
I encourage you to go out into the world and simply listen. Listen to the ways in which God speaks to your heart. Listen to the passions that God granted you, and by sharing these gifts with the world, you will be a light in the lives of those around you through your care, enthusiasm, and diligence. Listen to the stories of those around you. And by just simply listening, you show God and God’s people that your heart is open to giving and receiving love and joy, which I believe is the greatest act of service anyone can perform.
~ Olivia Hadley
excerpted from Youth Sunday sermon, Feb. 5, 2017