Monday, September 23, 2013

The Art of Conversation

At our house, the kitchen table was used for more than eating meals; it was the place of conversation. At the time I discovered this, I was unaware of the major turn it would make in my life. The home where I grew up was the regular gathering place for crowds of family and friends. My dad's outgoing personality and my mom's gift of hospitality opened the door for literally hundreds of get-togethers over the years. In my youngest years, those days were full of fun activity outside, where we ran and played to our hearts content. Something happened, though, as I was entering my young teens; I discovered conversation at the kitchen table.

With younger kids running around outside and naps and/or ball games in the living room, the kitchen table seemed to fill up with a hodgepodge of folks ready to talk about life. Whether it was the latest news, the weather, the most recent family updates or something else, people would sit around that table and visit for hours. "Ugh!" I thought as a little guy. Who in their right mind would want to sit around and talk when we could be outside throwing a ball or having a rotten apple war? (We had apple trees, much fruit would be blown off by the winds and, yes, we had "wars" of throwing them at each other.)

One by one, my older cousins lost interest in our outside games and migrated toward the kitchen table. Somehow the day finally came for me to do the same. I remember the fascination I felt at watching how stories would link together to comprise long, interesting visits. Some detail in one person's comment would erupt into a similar recitation from another. On and on these testimonies would travel until someone would call a halt for evening chores. At that point, the town folk in the family would gather up their young-uns and head home.

I recall those moments today because I realize that I loved being the center of attention and I could ALWAYS think of something to say to keep a conversation going. What I couldn't do very well was keep silent. It was hard for me to imagine that everyone around the table was anything but mesmerized by my brilliant tales. Today I think that their politeness got the better of them and they put up with me constantly talking rather than rudely tell me I should be quiet and let someone else speak for a while.

As I grow older, I have come to understand that God has, like those around our kitchen table, often had to put up with me talking nonstop during prayer. I know better than to believe that I will be heard for my many words, but I still must discipline myself to shut up long enough to listen...really what He might want to say to me.

What is your prayer life like? Do you regale God with endless stories? Do you barrage Him with long lists of requests delivered in machine-gun staccato? Do you quickly gush your prayer list out to Him, then hang up and go about your day? If so, you are missing one of the biggest joys available to those who pray; that of listening for and learning to hear His voice. More this weekend at Stone Ridge Church.


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