Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Marriage and Listening

Marriage holds together the paradox of being the context for relational bliss, while also being the tool for personal character formation. Paradoxical because on one end of the spectrum the intimacy and care that is enjoyed in marriage speaks to the deepest places in our beings. On the other end of the spectrum, living in close proximity to another human being forces one to look deeper into how life is lived out. In short, marriage is beautiful and difficult.

Rosie and I have recently been attending a small group at our new church (New Life Fellowship in Queens). The small group course is entitled PAIRS (Practical Application of Intimate Relationship Skills). The skills that we are learning coincide with emotionally healthy spirituality as developed by Pete and Geri Scazzero (our pastors). So, we are learning, unlearning, and relearning so much about doing life together.

Specifically, we are learning skills to help us effectively manage the pressures that come from being a resident of planet Earth. One of our sessions gave us skills on listening attentively and empathetically to each other. This was refreshing and so very difficult! One of the greatest gifts we can give to other people is the gift of listening. People long to be seen and heard. However our culture creates barriers to truly listening to people.

I think we can start listening better if we realize that we are not called to fix the problems that are communicated to us. Overcoming this hurdle releases us from the anxiety that we have to brainstorm and strategerize (one of my favorite Bushisms) to answer everything. Sometimes, people just want to vent! Sometimes they just want someone to be there.

One of my new favorite passages is Mark 10:46-52 (see below). So many times I feel like the crowd when I hear the cry of those in my family or church. I want people to be quiet! I don’t want to hear the screams! I think this is the case because I recognize that I don’t have the power to make anyone see. As a result it speaks to my limits and inadequacies. Perhaps my job is simply to begin to let people vent and to be a quiet presence before them. Only then can I lead them to Jesus where they can find true healing.

To be incarnational in marriage or any other relational context is to begin by listening.

Mark 10:46

Then they came to Jericho. As Jesus and his disciples, together with a large crowd, were leaving the city, a blind man, Bartimaeus (that is, the Son of Timaeus), was sitting by the roadside begging. 47When he heard that it was Jesus of Nazareth, he began to shout, "Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!"

48Many rebuked him and told him to be quiet, but he shouted all the more, "Son of David, have mercy on me!"

49Jesus stopped and said, "Call him." So they called to the blind man, "Cheer up! On your feet! He's calling you." 50Throwing his cloak aside, he jumped to his feet and came to Jesus.

51"What do you want me to do for you?" Jesus asked him.
The blind man said, "Rabbi, I want to see."

52"Go," said Jesus, "your faith has healed you." Immediately he received his sight and followed Jesus along the road.



  1. a good word... it's hard for me to ACTIVELY listen, something that I'm working on in my own marriage.

  2. Stategery! lol....

    Do i sense a PHD in Psychology. Your thinking more clinically. It'll help your



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