Can You Hear Me Now!

     There’s an old saying that bad news comes in threes. I don’t believe this always to be the case. But for Job, the adage proved true. Three messengers each brought Job a negative report. All toll, Job lost not only his business holdings, he also lost his children to death. A very bad day, indeed.
     Upon hearing the devastating news, Job’s three friends pay him a visit. Initially, these men sat alongside Job to grieve with him. For an entire week, they comforted Job by saying nothing and listening intently to Job as he struggled to understand why all these terrible events had fallen upon him.
     Unfortunately, Eliphaz, Bildad, and Zophar didn’t stay silent for long. Instead, they each provided Job with a litany of reasons as to why calamity had struck Job. Frankly, their rationale was a predominate Jewish meta-narrative that explained human suffering. Their collective wisdom could be summarized like this: bad things happen only to people who do bad things. Today, we recognize that the causes of human suffering are more complicated and nuanced than this simplistic explanation suggests.
     Yet aside from Job’s friend’s rhetoric lies an equally serious concern. Throughout their back-and-forth dialogue with Job, none of the three earnestly heard what Job had to say. Job tried to convey his sense of confusion and pain. However, neither friend made much effort to hear Job’s lament.
     Yesterday, I was delighted to hear the story of two men who participated in the protests held in the Clermont County Village of Bethel. Joe Arnett and Denorver Garrett represent different races and backgrounds. WLWT described the conversation this way:
Arnett admitted that he doesn’t support all of what he understands the “Black
Lives Matter” movement to be but wanted to listen to what it means to Garrett.
“Your letting me talk. I’m letting you talk. That’s how we grow,” Garrett said.
     Indeed. Listening is how we grow in our mutual understanding of one another’s differences.
     Job’s friends failed to understand Job’s situation because they failed to listen completely. Were they still living, Eliphaz, Bildad, and Zophar could learn a great deal from Joe and Denorver. Stephen Covey, the author of Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, writes that it is critical for people to seek first to understand one another before making their opinions understood.
     In this present season of racial tension, Covey’s advice makes sense. As black, white, Progressives, or Conservatives, listening to one another is the first step toward lasting peace. To quote a familiar phrase: “Can you hear me now?”