By Sue Kelly
The mother was putting her young son to bed for the evening. As they were going through their usual bedtime routine, the boy suddenly took his two teddy bears, one in one hand, one in the other, and began to make them fight. “Mommy, there is a war going on in my head. One side of my brain is telling me to do the right thing and the other side of my brain is telling me to do the wrong thing.” The mother was taken aback that even five year olds have a deep sense of the eternal conflict. Not quite sure how to respond to such a complex thought in a way a five year old might understand, the mother said “Well, adults have that same war going on in their heads. We have a choice between the good and the evil. We have to work at the good winning over the evil. It is not always easy but we have to try.” As my son grew, I watched that good verses evil play out over and over again with his super hero figures, the video games, and the sticks he would turn into guns. The good guys always won.
My time on the vestry has sometimes felt like the two bears with the good trying to win out over the evil. The tricky part is that evil can sometimes be disguised as good or what seems to be good can turn out to be evil. We were given situations in which we had to really work to discern God’s goodness. It was not always easy, nor was it always clear right away. We had to keep trying with perseverance. We would take time to acknowledge God among us as we worked to find the right path and allowed the Holy Spirit to pick us up when we fell leading us in its direction. These last three years have been quite a journey; a journey of hard work, a journey of loving support, a journey of faith. The vestry has been a place where we have come to respect and appreciate each other for our gifts and, maybe even more importantly, for our differences. We have laughed, we have been angry, and at times felt such sadness flowing in our tears. Through the twists and turns of the battling teddies, we have been able to work together on a higher ground supported and led by God’s Holy Spirit.
One of the books we read that sustained me on this vestry journey was Grounded in God by Farnham, Hull, and McLean. In particular were the Discernment Listening Guidelines, which in my mind helped us to receive God’s guidance. I always had a copy of them in front of me for every meeting.
Discernment Listening Guidelines
- Take time to become settled in God’s presence.
- Listen to others with your entire self (senses, feelings, intuition, imagination, and rational faculties).
- Do not interrupt.
- Pause between speakers to absorb what has been said.
- Do not formulate what you want to say while someone else is speaking.
- Speak for yourself only, expressing your own thoughts and feelings, referring to your own experiences. Avoid being hypothetical. Steer away from broad generalizations.
- Do not challenge what others say.
- Listen to the group as a whole-to those who have not spoken aloud as well as to those who have.
- Generally, leave space for anyone who may want to speak a first time before speaking a second time yourself.
- Hold your desires and opinions-even your convictions-lightly.
These guidelines spoke to me and helped me to become a better, nonjudgmental listener yearning to hear the goodness of God.
I am truly grateful for my time on the vestry. I give thanks for those who have stepped forward to be new vestry members. Your lives will be enriched. For the good will triumph over the evil. It is not always easy, but with God’s help, we must continue to try.