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AfterWords | The Listening (and Crying) Room (December 11, 2022)

AfterWords is a series of community-contributed reflections intended to further the conversations that begin during Parish sermons.

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A 3-Minute Read
by Laura Boggs

“God, give me one good humiliation a day. It’s good for the soul and it’s good for the ego.”
—Richard Rohr

At this time of year, I carry in my purse a poinsettia-printed handkerchief that belonged to my grandmother. I don’t know how it’s survived years of weddings and funerals, washings and pressings, but despite its daintiness, it’s held up. This is a good thing—I need my brave little handkerchief as of late, especially in church.

The Parish makes me cry. I don’t identify as a crier, so I find this curious. But I look around and see I’m not alone. After this past Sunday’s service, I queried a few fellow criers. Yep, I walked right up to them and asked, “Why do you cry in church?” There may have even been an impromptu ladies’ room chat about why we cry…

Which made me cry.

Benjamin’s Advent-joy words on Sunday did, too. And I think somewhere in his message is the key to the crying.

Benjamin spoke of a new song, a chorus of liberation, and how we’re invited to be active participants not in an empire, but a kingdom. The kingdom’s cadence is compassion and curiosity, a keenness to where God is working. Can we hear?

(Cue tears of soul-expansion, of love-evolution.)

Two evenings later, I was at a jazz show, and the nightclub crowd was noisy. The chattiness was a shame because, um, live music! “I can’t hear,” I complained to a friend, who recommended a music venue up the road. He called it a “true listening room.”

I looked at him and said, “On so many levels, the world needs a listening room.”

The Parish feels like a listening room. We are deeply listening—and learning to listen deeper still.

I listened as Benjamin said the kingdom frees and liberates, but that sometimes liberation can feel like doubt.

As audience-Benjamin would say, That’s good!

“The chief competitor of our faith,” said speaker-Benjamin, “is not doubt. It’s certainty.”

(Cue tears of relief.)

God in his mercy is showing me a fresh strain, one with chords of mystery, beauty, and the bigness of the Big Story, a story that begins not with a curse but with beloved-ness.

And the soul feels its worth.

But oh, the years I spent living under what Benjamin called the “tyranny of certainty.” I bought into a smaller story. I was complicit. I participated.

(Cue tears of unraveling, of grief, of repentance.)

I cannot unhear Benjamin. Or Megan. Or Jordan. I cannot unhear the invitation to participate in the seriously big—too big to swallow in one fast-food gulp—Big Story.

To fall further in love with God, I am listening.

For the folks I adore—and those I don’t—I’m listening.

For the sake of others, for our neighbors and fellow image-bearers experiencing suffering and injustice, I am listening.

I am listening and learning to listen.

And crying. Always with the crying…

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