This weekend, I was supposed to be a part of telling about some miraculous, hope-filled, healing events that occurred in Peru this past August. Because I have been slammed back into the brokenness of injecting chemo into my weakened body to fight fast-growing cancer cells, I can’t show up for the reporting about Peru.
However, this is what I would say, if I could go.
I use art to form relationships, hear women’s stories, and help them connect their stories to Jesus, and His heart of love. Much of my time is spent listening, with this type of art. Really listening. Wherever I travel, sit, listen, and pray; each woman – as a created image bearer of God – entrusts me with a bit of her story. I am honored for these moments of telling. Each encounter is a divine appointment God has entrusted to my heart. I never take any story lightly. I want to hear the full weight of a woman’s story, and I pray to hear those things she isn’t saying, but the Holy Spirit might reveal. I have a sense of wonder about what God will reveal as we sit together, and I really listen. (World-wide, women whisper about rape, abuse, infidelity, poverty, no hope. These are sacred conversations.)
Some people get distracted when hearing others’ stories. They think of their own story. (Man, I used to.) Listeners can’t listen without practice. Typically, listeners want to correct, give advice, butt in, smooth things over, say something clever, tell what is resonating in their own story. That’s not listening. Some think of what’s going on at home, their daughter’s illness, their financial woes, their hunger pangs, what they are eating for dinner or the wash that needs to go into the dryer and they don’t listen.
In Peru, I mentioned to the leaders that there would be many distractions from true, God-honoring listening. And, boy did they come. Sometimes the distractions came as a man blow-torching the wrought iron on the front door, once it was an angry husband wanting his wife out of the gathering NOW, sometimes it was a “tired from working all day” woman as she nodded off snoring, and sometimes it was team members learning to listen. (I understand. I used to be a poor listener, and still have to settle my heart down before each gathering so I can do it well.)
Enter cancer. The listening school of cancer. Cancer has a way of shutting someone up with deep pain, nausea, and fatigue one can’t imagine surviving. Words are socked right out of you. You keel over in bed and give up. (God has put me in listening school, yet again, but I had my listening skills honed back in 2011 during my initial cancer care.) As a cancer patient, I spend many, many hours quietly listening in my bed. Listening to my heartbeat, my breathing through my oxygen tubing, my wind chime, my weak prayers. And listening to nothing. Just the air in the room.
I brought my cancer trained, listening heart to Peru, where women shared deeply, in small groups. We brought their stories to Jesus and to His heart of love – the safest place for their stories and each of our stories. Light broke into very dark places in the women’s hearts. Healing began. Women gave their hearts to Jesus. Miracles broke out as women began seeing themselves as valuable and part of a greater story. Lies were destroyed and the truth was embraced in women’s hearts and minds. Jesus had been listening to their hearts all along, and they saw we had showed up to put skin on that fact.