I'm a talker.
Always have been. I love to tell a story, love to share what's new, love to communicate about something I've learned.
It's served me well as a pastor, preaching and encouraging and exhorting college students. It also came in handy as a teacher in the classroom.
But in my friendships, I have to work to keep my tongue in check.
I've always been a little uncomfortable with silence in conversation. But our silence gives others the space to speak. Sometimes you have sit there and be quiet, even if it feels funny to your chit-chatty heart.
A beautiful model of this in my life is my mentor Sharon. She and I have met together for the past few years. A former teacher and mom to three girls, Sharon is a little farther into her journey than I am and gave me the gift of walking together though some seasons of change.
When we first started meeting, I was a newly-wed in a new classroom struggling with professional insecurity, personal doubts and adjusting to married life. We met at the same Starbucks shop halfway between our homes every other week, drinking green tea lattes and talking about Jesus, teaching marriage, pregnancy, motherhood and friendships.
Sharon is a talker too and often told lively stories about her adventures with her girls and making her way through the week. She also took the time to listen really well.
After asking some variation of the question "How are you?", she would sit with her face full toward me, ready to hear the answer.
Many times I would give her an update on some event that had happened or issue I was facing and when I would stop speaking, instead of jumping in with a tidbit about her own life or a follow-up question to keep the conversation moving, she would just sit there.
Letting me hear myself.
In the quiet space between us, there was time to reflect on what had been said and consider what either of us would say next.
Sometimes I found myself realizing the lies I was telling myself in what I was saying, lies about my worthiness or my abilities or the reasonableness of my expectations.
Other times Sharon would come back with a story of her own to encourage me.
A few days, I filled the silence with tears, because there was more to be said than words could express.
That's what Sharon did for me. And what she showed me how to do.
My temptation in friendships as a talky-talker is to try to soothe and solve with words. And there's a time for that. But often the greatest gift we can give is not to offer advice or opinions or platitudes.
It's simply to be quiet, together, allowing space for the feelings and the hurt and the truth to come in it's time.
What about you, friends? Do you long to find places to be heard? How are you doing at listening well?