Ever notice how skewed our sense of time is when it comes to certain things?
Sometimes our words take the low side of reality:
A missionary asks for 2-3 minutes to address the congregation.
At the end of a visit at a friend’s house, the parents tell their children that they’ll leave in 5 minutes.
A daughter texts her mom, “I’ll be out in a second.”
The progress bar on the software download reads, “2 minutes remaining.”
A husband says that fixing the faucet will take “half an hour, tops.”
Of course, it goes in the other direction, as well:
A friend reports, “When I said it, his jaw dropped and he just stared at me . . . for probably 10 minutes.”
A patient tells the doctor, “I exercise at least a half our every day.”
A worship leader announces, “Let’s take 10-12 minutes to pray silently.”
And a teacher is sure he’s waiting a good three minutes after every question he asks in front of the class.
Can you hear the economics teacher in Ferris Bueller’s Day Off?
In 1930, the Republican-controlled House of Representatives, in an effort to alleviate the effects of the . . . Anyone? Anyone? . . . the Great Depression, passed the . . . Anyone? Anyone? The tariff bill? The Hawley-Smoot Tariff Act? Which . . . Anyone? Raised or lowered? . . . raised tariffs, in an effort to collect more revenue for the federal government. Did it work? Anyone? Anyone know the effects? It did not work, and the United States sank deeper into the Great Depression. (courtesy of IMDB.com)
When we’re asking questions, it’s so easy to answer ourselves rather than let others’ thoughts coalesce in the silence. When we’re listening, it’s so easy to rush others to get to the point rather than allow them to get to the heart of what they’re feeling.
Christian author Philip Yancey, somewhat more eloquent than the Ben Stein character, knows a thing or two about listening—to God and to other people. In Prayer: Does It Make Any Difference? he writes:
Listening is an art, and I must learn to listen to God just as I have had to learn to listen as a journalist. When I interview people, I ask a question and they give an answer. Early on, especially when the interview subjects were nervous and halting, I would jump in and finish their sentences. I learned, though, that if I don’t interrupt or move quickly to a follow-up question, if I sit in silence for a while, they may speak again, filling in details. Counselors know this too.
We can learn a quite a bit from good, experienced teachers, theologians, journalists, and counselors. There are a lot of people who need to be heard. All we need to do is . . . Anyone? Anyone?
(Philip Yancey, Prayer: Does It Make Any Difference? Zondervan, 2006)
[photo: “Time Is Running Out,” by Andrea Zamboni, used under a Creative Commons license]