The Art of Listening
As graduation quickly approaches, I can’t help but to feel a sense of responsibility to begin the work of reflecting on my time here at PTS. As the adage goes, “Hindsight is 20/20” meaning, there is clarity when an experience or an event is behind us. Consequently, it feels slightly foolish to start looking behind me when I’m still in the midst of closing this chapter. Yet, it also makes perfect sense to want to find continual meaning and purpose in the three years that I have been here. I think it goes without saying that the lessons that we take away from this season of study and preparation for ministry go well beyond the classroom setting. Each one of us has been unavoidably touched with life experiences while a student. I look around me and I witness my brothers and sisters in Christ having experienced profound loss, grief, illness, love, companionship, loneliness, success, failure, and so on and so on.
In this grain, I have been thinking about what it means to truly listen. We hear a lot of things in this place. We hear professors lecture, we hear voices in classroom discussions, we hear opinions and convictions being shared around the table, we even hear the voices of those who have penned the countless textbooks that we use. With all the voices that we hear, how often do we actually listen? And if we cannot listen properly to those around us, how can we hear God? Listening is a theological theme that is weaved throughout the narratives in Scripture. Specifically, Samuel’s call story comes to mind. Samuel heard God call him three times and each time he ran to Eli, believing that it was his teacher who beckoned. Eli perceived that it was God calling out to Samuel and instructs Samuel on how to respond if it should happen again. God does call Samuel again and this time Samuel responds saying “Speak, for your servant is listening.” We know the rest of the story. It was necessary for Samuel to cultivate the skill of listening and responding to God.
As a student, I am grateful that this place has taught me how to listen. I’m taking my cues from Samuel. Truthfully, I haven’t always liked what I have heard or agreed with what I have heard, but I have always needed to hear ALL of it. I have been humbled and I have been opened to God through so many of the varying voices in this place. As many of us disperse from PTS after graduation, my prayer is that we will all recall the many voices that we have been privileged to hear and find ways to continue to reflect on the many gifts of the lessons that we have received in this place.
Melanie, senior MDiv student at Pittsburgh Theological Seminary