Bad or good, wonderful or terrible, I have found in life that everything that happens and has happened to me in life makes me a better person, has prepared and continues to prepare me to encounter life. Particularly as a priest and pastor, counselor, advisor, mentor, helper, friend, my own experiences of life are and have always been more helpful to me than reading, studying the textbooks, works, internet websites of experts. This doesn’t go for disciplines such as trying to work with Greek, and reading such as the sermons of noted preachers to raise my imagination and improve my skills; but it certainly has and does when it comes to one on one meetings with hurting folks and meetings with groups, my empathy and sensitivity with people. With rare exception, I try never to bring myself into listening and counseling sessions, but listening, hearing in the sense of ὁράω (Mark 9:1, original word), seeing, understanding, perceiving where someone is at a juncture in life comes better from having been there than from the case studies, theories and examples in my textbooks. I am myself a case study, and so, in some ways an aged listener may be better than a degreed one. Granted, an advantage of the textbook is to raise my alertness and listening ability, and my sensitivity to call up from memory, to be aware that I have been there too, and to prevent me from being judgmental but rather partner even though I never bring myself into it because I’m neither the subject nor the object. The key word is still and always listen.
What brings this up on a Monday early as the sky brightens. Someone is hurting; and I have been there, sometimes, I think but try not to say, “in spades.” From experience I can almost always say, nothing in life is new, believe it or not at this moment, you will get through this, you will always have it in your bank of life that you have coped with or are coping with, it may someday help you better understand and help another hurting soul.
Out beyond Shell Island, offshore in the Gulf of Mexico, is what may be a large ship, perhaps waiting for daylight and her tugs, perhaps moving on down the coast for another port.