Six years ago someone tricked me into reading “The Good News About Sex & Marriage.” I walked away from that book thoroughly annoyed that the Church’s teaching on sexuality made so much sense. I was convicted that my husband and I needed to make some big changes in our lives. I had been on birth control since I was 15 and we were using an IUD to prevent pregnancy.
I was smack dab in the middle of my conversion so I marched my typing fingers into a Catholic women’s Facebook group and asked them for advice. My doctor couldn’t see me (to have the IUD removed) for six months. Did this mean my husband and I couldn’t have sex for six months without sinning? I sure hoped not because, although I was going through a life changing conversion, my poor husband (at this point) was just along for the ride. “What am I supposed to do in the mean time?” I asked the group and, here’s the important part of this story, I truly wanted to hear their answers.
God was doing such beautiful work in my life that I was actually willing to hear all of them. Their opinions varied. Some said I was supposed to abstain completely during those six months. Some said I should call a Catholic doctor to see if I could get my IUD out sooner. Some said to continue business as usual because God likely understood the details of my story and was pleased with me and the changes I was making.
I was a new convert so I was absolutely in love with God, and I was really comfortable with the idea that I knew nothing. I actually wanted for believers who knew more than me (virtually every single believer at this point) to call me out or correct me. Can you believe I actually prayed for correction? I did, because correction felt like agape love. (Agape is a totally selfless love, which seeks not one’s own advantage but only to benefit or share with another.) I had zero pride and all I wanted was to please God. I was teachable, humble and a new creation in Christ.
Pridey McPrider Pants
A few months later I settled into Christianity and that humility and teachability wore off because now I was a Christian with a capital C and I knew things.
Someone else correcting me was no longer agape, it was mean and judgmental and “how dare you presume to know my relationship with the Lord?!” I was sure I had nothing to learn from anyone else because I already knew everything I needed to know and my opinions were the right ones. I wouldn’t have admitted this out loud, of course, because we don’t like to admit what’s actually happening inside of us out loud. Sometimes I wonder if we’re even aware of what’s going on in there.
Everyone of us has said out loud that we “don’t know everything” and we think we actually mean it. We say we don’t know everything, but then we turn around and move through life as if we do know everything. We don’t think we have anything to learn and we completely throw out the notion that there’s a chance we might be wrong. Without even realizing it we are incapable of listening to other people’s opinions.
When I was a kid I looked up to my dad like he was a God. He was the smartest human in the world to me so it really made an impact when he told me that one of the best things he learned to say was “I don’t know enough about that to have an opinion.” This was revolutionary for me. It seemed so…..valuable, like something I might actually need to say one day. So I waited and waited and waited and that day never came. Because the truth is, I always think I know enough to have an opinion and (even worse) I always think the world needs to hear what my opinion is.
Blessed are the Dumb
Anyone who is rational will tell you that Facebook isn’t a productive place to disagree because the number of people whose opinions are changed on Facebook is a grand total of zero. Do you know why that is, though? Because no one thinks their opinions need changing. We don’t take a moment to consider that maybe we are the ones who have work to do.
Today I’d be one of the ladies in that Catholic Facebook group arguing about what this newly converted woman should do and that makes me mostly disappointed in myself. I don’t listen to people for the sake of listening. I listen in order to convert or to point out how smart or nice I am. I listen just long enough to formulate my ‘beautiful’ response and that’s really, really sad. I long for the girl who was willing to admit she knew nothing because that was a grace filled way to go through life. Her meekness must’ve been so pleasing to our Lord. Our world would look so different if we listened to people for the sake of listening. Can you imagine such a thing? Listening to actually, like, listen?
I’m sharing this because I believe we have work to do. I believe we become a magnet for Christ when we swallow our pride and listen, really listen. The Lord must take such delight in the people who are humble enough to say, “I don’t know enough about that to have an opinion. What do you think?” I’m not one of those people, but I’m going to do my best to become one of them.