University Blog

Communication Can Be Hard

Posted by Ben Trammell on

But who can discern their own errors?
Forgive my hidden faults.
Keep your servant also from willful sins;
    may they not rule over me.
Then I will be blameless,
    innocent of great transgression.
 May these words of my mouth and this meditation of my heart
    be pleasing in your sight,
 Lord, my Rock and my Redeemer.

Psalm 19:12-14

Friends, 

Communicating can be a challenge even in the most ideal circumstances: let’s say two people enjoy each other’s company, have similar interests, compatible values and ideals, they like many of the same things and may even find interesting the differences they notice between each other, they speak the same language and share much of the same culture…let’s say they even like looking at each other chew things and so decide to legally, geographically and covenantal bind their present and future together. We might think that this pair after decades of opportunity and practice would be incredibly good at communicating… with no misunderstandings and no miscommunications.

Has anyone who has taken part in a similar experiment want to testify? As the preachers use to ask, can I get a witness?

When does our pair struggle the most to be heard, to listen well, to understand and be understood? In times of stress, pain, anger, fear, and confusion. When trust has fallen and the stakes are raised communication and connection can go from hard to seemingly impossible. Perhaps most frustrating is that it is really hard to communicate clearly when things aren’t clear, when we don’t know or don’t understand.

And that is people who chose each other, lived together daily for years, and would seem to have a favorable infrastructure for connecting and communicating clearly and well. 

True, good, sticky (memorable), and applicable is the aim of every sermon in declaring the Word God still speaks through the text of scripture, but most of the time I am counting on grace and trusting that God will not be defeated by my shortfall or shortcomings. That is in addition to the challenges of different cultures, experiences, and the like of a congregation who is trying hard to listen as fast as I am talking!

So, I am incredibly sympathetic to how difficult it is to speak to gatherings, communities, or even countries to get a message out that is both understood, accurate and helpful. But man it has been a tough 18-months. Tuesday, I was trying to get back into the emergency room at a local hospital to pray with a friend and member and the folks at the front desk were trying their best to navigate the changing landscape. One of them nearly broke into tears, she kept apologizing and saying “…the rules change every day.” I assured her I understood, that to my knowledge there was nothing for her to apologize for but that forgiveness was sort of my thing and she smiled. I got where she was coming from; I related to the frustration, the desire to do things ‘right’ but not always knowing what that is, and (though this is speculation) to taking an assignment because she was born to help people find their way.

Her partner at the station probably felt all those same things and more too, but it was covered in a fierce undirected anger. She was mad, not at me nor anything in particular, but at everything. I imagine you have felt like and run into folks like this recently and frequently.

Most folks are doing the best they can in a hard, unclear, and uncertain situation. There is lots of anger, frustration, and fear. The stakes are high, trust is low, and the guidance changes and is at times inconsistent. 

What can we do? We will stay on the disciple course that Jesus called us to from the start. We will continue to provide opportunities for people to be vaccinated (August 14th in our building) and encourage folks who have concerns to talk to their medical providers. We will continue our current mask policy, which invites and encourages any and all to wear a mask if they choose. We will not stigmatize mask-wearing or the absence of a mask. We will not define our community by fear, shame, and blame. We will love deeply, broadly, and sacrificially. We will listen deeply, build trust, and remain firm in hope. In-person, online, and in our prayers, we will stay connected to the giver of life, the sustainer of hope, and the redeemer of all wounds and wilderness.

If you would like to communicate and connect (I can use the practice), please let me know.

Blessings,
Pastor Ben

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