Laura Rorem (Courtesy Photo)

Laura Rorem (Courtesy Photo)

Living and Growing: Listen to the message of peace, love, joy and hope

Listen and silent are spelled with the same letters. Think about that!

  • By Laura Rorem
  • Thursday, December 8, 2022 12:18pm
  • Neighbors

“There are times for doing nothing, but be sure you do it well—

and listen.

For God, in silent spaces, has something great to tell.”“Reverie” by Gerhard Frost

Listen and silent are spelled with the same letters. Think about that!

Listening to God, as he speaks in the silence of our hearts, is the beginning of prayer.

Participating fully in Advent and Christmas feels impossible since Larry died two years ago: during Advent, three days before Christmas. Without him, I find myself anesthetized by the Christmas cheer that surrounds me. During these times, I catch myself listening to my fears, rather than listening to God.

Yet Advent is about anticipating Jesus coming to free us from our suffering. So why does my suffering make me feel so fearful and far from God during this time?

Society does not allow much room for sadness during the holiday season. I often receive well-intentioned, yet awkward, phrases of sympathy that quickly sidestep my grief. For example: “God doesn’t give us more than we can handle.” “Everything happens for a reason.” “Let go and let God.” I find clichés do not bring me comfort. I appreciate their effort to comfort me.

I am deeply comforted when people: Acknowledge my loss and share their feelings about Larry; Are non judgmental; Do not use clichés; and do not minimize my loss.

The most comfort comes from people I have a deep spiritual relationship with when they surround me with their “listening presence”, an open heart and mind, and sit in silence with me as we listen to God together and I am allowed to lament. The silence provides space for me to

listen to God and speak authentically from my heart. I know I am being heard. Listening to God is a means of grace and the Holy Spirit acts in and through our listening. This paves the way for me to cast aside my fears and discern the wisdom and will of God for my life without Larry.

When I listen to God in silent spaces, with caring people surrounding me with their “listening presence”, my heart, soul, spirit and mind begin to feel: the peace of Advent knowing that God is with me, even in the depths of my despair; his steadfast love, which comforts my suffering, because he chose to experience it firsthand; unexpected joy and gratitude because my grief is seen and felt by God; and Christmas hope which was born into flesh in the form of a baby, whose life, death and resurrection brings life to all.

During this season, just as Jesus listens to us with a compassionate heart, may we listen with compassion, allowing God to speak in the silent spaces of our hearts, as we reach out and provide a “listening presence” to all who mourn and are affected by loss and suffering of one kind or another, so they may experience the peace, love, joy and hope of Advent and Christmas.

And may we listen when God speaks to us in the silence of our hearts, and no longer listen to our fears, but listen to God so we may experience the peace of Advent; God’s steadfast love; unexpected joy; and the hope of Christmas.

• Laura Rorem is a member of Resurrection Lutheran Church. She writes to honor Pastor Larry Rorem’s legacy of love, compassion and understanding for all humankind, especially the most vulnerable. Larry wrote for “Living and Growing for almost three decades.

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