Linger: Listen to Someone You Love by Laura Davis WereZak
Years ago an artist named Noreen and I were privileged to work together in the early years of the Worldwide Challenge magazine. We have stayed in touch. A short time ago she sent me a book by her daughter, Laura—Attend: Forty Soul Stretches Toward God.
As I began to read I was encouraged and challenged to “attend to God”—that is, to stretch toward Him. Several of her brief chapters fit in perfectly with the word God gave me for this year—linger. Be encouraged by this beautiful help to linger and listen with our loved ones.
Check in with a spouse, a roommate, a family member, or a friend by asking about the highlight and lowlight of their day. In one way, this task seems too simple. If you have followed the course of the book, you have already written letters, given gifts, and spent time remembering with friends.
But this is an important tool for those of us still learning to listen, to stretch toward one another with concern and to give our full attention. This question works well when your spouse or roommate has returned home after work, when you pick up a child from school, as you are cooking dinner, when the family sits down to dinner, or before you settle into watching TV and poking around on social media feeds.
In her book How to Talk to Practically Anybody About Practically Anything, Barbara Walters shares a truth that has stuck with me since I read it as a shy young woman: People love to talk about themselves, and especially to share their stories and experiences with someone who will listen carefully.
Walters found this equally true whether she was meeting celebrities, making daily conversation, or interviewing people for TV. She was always looking for the next good questions that could get a person talking about themselves.
What was the highlight and lowlight?
Walters’ principle can help us build daily connections with people we love. If I ask, “So what was the highlight and the lowlight of your day?” and genuinely listen—without trying to fix problems, judge mistakes, or jump too quickly to my own stories—the people in my life love having a chance to talk about themselves.
They love to commiserate about what frustrated them that day. They love to connect and share about the small victories of everyday life. It’s a beautiful thing to feel like someone cares enough to ask about our day and to listen to what we have to say.
Listening requires a much more focused kind of attention than the other practices in this book. It can be draining for the sufferer of spiritual ADD, but important.
To listen to those you love is to build trust
To listen to others and give them our close attention is the foundation of all trusting relationship. We listen to those we love: they listen to us in turn: trust is built. God listens to us, we listen to God: trust is built. And when the day comes that we need safe refuge, we can find it. In God and in our loved ones. Because we have not neglected healthy relationships.
My friend Shannon taught me the power of asking people about highlights and lowlights in a weekly small group Bible Study she led. Most weeks as we sat on the couches and floors in our friend Michael’s apartment, Shannon would start off our time by asking: “What was the highlight and lowlight of your week?”
Before we opened up God’s Word together, we would slowly move around the room and share the best and the worst of our daily lives. It was a much more effective question than “How can we pray for you?” because it was more specific, easier to answer, and free of stuffy language about praises and prayer requests.
We just gave honest answers
Instead of trying to give the “right” answer, we just gave honest answers: We told about our struggles with unemployment, housing, food poisoning, family relationships, pregnancy aches and pains, infertility, work woes, singleness, surgeries, deaths, and grad school exams; we shared about life’s small victories such as exciting research projects, passing grades, fun trips, job opportunities, baby showers, new relationships, healed wounds, races run, future hopes, and drama-free days at work.Each member of our group shared and listened in turn. And slowly, over the course of about two years, we built a strong bond of trust with one another.
These friends cheered on my creative writing, celebrated my graduation, and came to our home to celebrate the Anglican service of “Thanksgiving after Childbirth” with us when our daughter was born a few months later. They showed up for her baptism, gave her gracious gifts, and cuddled her like proud family members.
And when I got sick unexpectedly, they were the ones we sent a panicked e‑mail to, even though technically we weren’t even a part of the group anymore. These were the people we trusted and the people we knew would help. They cleaned our house, explained our medical care options, found us a good family doctor, and checked in on us in the months that followed.
Our honest practice of listening built trust
Our honest practice of showing up, sharing, and listening to one another had built relationships of trust and care we could rely on when crisis came, and we weren’t the only ones to call for help during those years.
The group didn’t last forever—the push and pull of school, careers, and housing changed the group over the years— but I’m grateful I could experience the Body of Christ in that way in the years I needed it most. The friendship build by our honest conversation became a refuge when tough times hit.
Make space for the question “What was the highlight and lowlight of your day?” Ask follow‑up questions that show you were giving your full attention to what your loved one says, simple things like: “Huh. What did you think about that?” “Hmm . . . What did you mean by this?” “Wow! How did that make you feel?” “Oh no! What are you going to do?”Close the computer and put your phone out of sight. Silence your notifications for ten minutes or so, no interruptions. Give your whole attention. Put away thoughts of being anywhere else with anyone else. These thoughts are an insult to the person in front of you, who is eager for you to really hear them, respond to them, and love them. So set aside your tech for this ten minutes. Be present here, not anywhere else.
As you listen, keep in mind that what people hope for when they tell their stories is what we all hope for, to know that whatever is going on, they can count on us to be with them. In their joys and in their pains, laughing and crying. We are listening.
What about you? What has helped you “attend” to someone you care about?
Laura Davis Werezak is a mother, an Anglican minister’s wife and a writer who works out of a drafty home office in Manhattan. Some of her favorite spiritual stretches toward God these days are praying with the funky old Book of Common Prayer, learning to knit new projects, and hunting for beauty in New York's museums and parks with her two young daughters. Discover more daily spiritual practices that can turn your face toward God in her book Attend: Forty Soul Stretches Toward God (FaithWords).