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28th June: Listening to People

Then the woman, scared and shaking all over because she knew that she was the one to whom this thing had happened, came and flung herself before him and told him the whole story. Mark 5:33 (JBP)

This woman, with her severe and worsening menorrhagia, had come to Jesus in despair, had secretly touched his cloak and had experienced healing. Jesus insisted on making personal contact with her. And he listened while she told him the whole story.

Listening to people is always important, both for the doctor and for the patient. Doctors don't listen, patients say. Why don't we listen? No time, we say. That's a pity. perhaps we could make a little more time if we tried. Some doctors do. But is shortage of time always the reason? Is the exercise tedious to us? Do we think that patient has nothing to tell us? Do we just not want to hear about the pains and aches and coughs and limps, or -- more tedious, but often more important -- the frustrations and burdens and miseries that make us feel helpless? Are we impatient to get on with ordering the X-ray examinations and the pathology tests, or to reach for the prescription pad to order the placebo or the panacea? It is not always easy to listen, whatever people say. But listening always matters, listening both to what the patient says and to what he (often more loudly) does not say. It is important diagnostically. It can be vital therapeutically. It can bring great healing to the spirit. Jesus listened -- not only to the woman wit her debilitating menorrhagia, but to Nicodemus, to the woman of Samaria, to the Centurion at Capernaum, to the Syrophoenician woman, to tempestuous Peter, to blind Bartimaeus, to lepers and sinners and outcasts. He was good at listening and clearly saw the value of it. Perhaps that was because he was always listening to his Father.

Lord, strengthen me, that, while I stand
Firm on the rock, and strong in thee,
I may stretch out a loving hand
To wrestlers with the troubled sea.

Frances Ridley Havergal.

Further reading: Mk 5:24-34.


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