You’ll have to forgive me: I’m not a political animal by nature, and I rarely get myself involved in anything that involves elephants or donkeys. But the government shutdown has seriously penetrated my thought process lately. Maybe it’s the fact that it’s influenced everything from television shows to ESPN.com (will Army-Navy get played?) Even now, as I write this, it seems that a tense agreement has finally been reached to end the sixteen-day standoff, like the ATF out-waiting a compound full of crazed cultists.
And it certainly hasn’t ended with bloodshed.
I find myself wondering if this isn’t all the result of our failure to recognize each other’s voices. Are we so busy trying to get our point across, to finish each other’s sentences, that we fail to actually hear the other person? Or do we really hear them and fail to listen?
Sure, I blame our elected officials, who we elected. But I also wonder if their behavior isn’t something that we mirror all of the time. I recently preached on Solomon’s Proverbs, and found myself coming back to two verses that had previously been rather unspectacular to me. Solomon wrote “a fool finds no pleasure in understanding but delights in airing his own opinions” (Proverbs 18:2) and later, “It is not good to have zeal without knowledge, nor to be hasty and miss the way” (Proverbs 19:2).
Is that true of our political representatives? Worse, is it true of us? Did we spend over two weeks with grownups refusing to hear someone else’s opinion because of their agenda, to bark zealously about their particular point of view without assessing the national climate and the people’s lives who were affected?
Solomon also wrote, “He who oppresses the poor shows contempt for their Maker, but whoever is kind to the needy honors God” (Proverbs 14:31). As I met soldier and civilian, read the Facebook updates, and considered the families I knew, the government’s inability to listen, to recognize who was paying for their substantial stubbornness, reminded me that I need to consider how well I listen. Because if a group of people can be stubborn enough to miss the point, then I guess I can miss the point, too.
I’d better take the advice of my second grade teacher and put on my “listening ears,” that I might hear God speak and consider what else others have to say. I just might learn something.
What have you learned about yourself thanks to the government standoff, er, shutdown?