Conversation: Are You an Ender or a Starter? Part 2

If you missed it yesterday, read Part 1 first.

Running in place vs. running a race

But if we end the conversation, then what have we gained? We might stay safe; we might feel righteous and satisfied at having the last word.  But what have we really gained?

Being a conversation-ender is like running in place.  We might be the fastest, fittest, most well-trained athlete in the world, but if we only run in place, we never get anywhere.  It’s much safer to run in place than to enter a race. But is that safety really worth more than the risk it takes to enter the race and be willing to find out we’re actually not as fast or fit as we thought?  What does running in place really gain us?

Ending the conversation

Rachel Held Evans spoke recently at a Mission Planting conference about her upcoming book A Year of Biblical Womanhood where she said, “I believe the Bible is meant to be a conversation-starter, not a conversation-ender.”

Growing up in the conservative South as a black-and-white Presbyterian, I prided myself on being able to end conversations with the perfect Bible verse.  You can’t argue with scripture, right? I carried my Bible with me everywhere because I wanted to be prepared to give an account for the hope that I had.  Cursing? Sex? Watching TV? I had a Bible verse for everything, and I felt safe and secure in the knowledge that I was living the right life.

But then I entered high school and began to be friends with people who didn’t live the right life at all.  In fact, they didn’t even care about what the Bible said!  I didn’t know how to have conversations with people who didn’t honor the word of God as perfect and authoritative.  For the first time, I wasn’t ending the conversation.  They were.

Listening before speaking

As soon as they saw the Bible I faithfully carried with me everywhere, the conversation was over before it ever began.  So I put my Bible away for a while and began to listen.

I listened to my high school friends. I read their stories and poetry. I played their games.  I entered their lives and watched how they engaged with people. I took note of what was important to them. I listened not only to their words but to their lives.

In college I kept listening, mostly because every time I opened my mouth I was slapped down and criticized as that-intolerant-conservative-Christian.   I began to understand how I had wounded others with my Bible-verse sword, how I had cut out their tongues with it and counted myself righteous for doing so.  I had wounded others growing up as I was now being wounded by my professors and fellow students.  I listened, and I learned how it felt to be uninvited to the conversation.

Then I went to seminary.

To be continued tomorrow…

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About Laura K. Cavanaugh

I'm a writer, spiritual director, and advocate of holistic body theology.

Posted on March 13, 2012, in Body of CHRIST, Community, Identity and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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