Comforting Words: Christmas Reflection #11

Friday, December 23, 2005

Christmas Reflection #11

I draw the eleventh lesson from the wisdom of the professor of a Theological Reflection course I recently attended.

From the first day of this course, the professor frequently referred to “thick listening in thin moments,” and as she unpacked this concept, or better yet approach to relationships, I knew it was going to be a valuable lesson for me.

She shared Walter Bruegmann’s review of Maria Harris’ book, Proclaim Jubilee, in which he describes ‘thick listening’ as the author’s way of speaking of prayer: “thick listening . . . understands and relishes the deep touch points that take place between suffering and imagination, touch points that can produce energy for the ‘healing of the world’."

“Thin moments,” my professor explained, "is a term used by a Thomas Groome, one which has its roots in Celtic spirituality. ‘Thin moments’ according to Groome occur when and where ‘separation between worlds is thin.’"

As she contrasted both terms and illustrated for us how they are nevertheless complementary, the proverbial light bulb went on for me. “How many times in my life,” I thought, “in the midst of what should have been my greatest suffering, I get a vision of what the future holds!”

This year for instance, the reality of thin moments came sharply into focus for me.

In May, I entered a new world through a training programme I had enrolled in. This three month programme opened my eyes to the possibilities to walk my talk of being a instrument of love and comfort, one person at a time. However, another more familiar world of under-employment, the one that I entered when we migrated to Canada, was beckoning me to return as the programme was coming to an end.

Sitting in the office of my then soon-to-be former Supervisor, I was kicking myself for not realizing earlier how much I would love being in this field. As I shared with my supervisor the anxiety I was feeling about the immediate future and the financial strain my family and I were experiencing due to under-employment, she asked me if I was serious about wanting to pursue a career in the particular field.

Looking back, it is now clear to me that that was a thin moment.

I could not understand why this petite woman had such a big smile on her face listening to my tale of woe and, quite honestly, some part of me wanted to wipe it off her face.

As if she read my mind and suspected that I was about to end her amusement, she said “Claudette, I am smiling because I just got an email from my colleague, telling me that her facility still has an opening.”

For almost two years, I had convinced myself that the particular path that I had chosen was the only one that would lead me to my calling, and this three month programme was a necessary detour, at least that was how I had planned things.

What I thought was a detour was in fact my destiny, only I did not know it and was suffering as I was now facing the prospect of another year of working in at a fast-food chain or call center, until I could get a place in an extended programme.

Combined with her smile, through that sentence I understood what Joseph Campbell meant when he said:
“We must let go of the life we have planned, so as to accept the one that is waiting for us.”

Listening thick in thin moments is another way of saying that.

How and when are you listening?




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