Contemplative listening in the sacred work of conciliation

“What does it matter if we have a new book or an old book, if we open neither?”   – Jesse Louis Jackson, Civil rights activist

There is an old hymn titled, “I love to tell the story”. The refrain declares, I love to tell the story, ’twill be my theme in glory, to tell the old old story, of Jesus and his love. It is a wonderful song. It is a beautiful story. 

There are many ways to tell a story. Two people can have a different spin on the same story as they may be seeing and experiencing it from slightly or completely different perspectives. The sacred work of Love requires us to move from a place of competing narratives to the intentional act of listening to an-other’s perspective and experience. 

When we practice Contemplative Listening, we set aside our own narrative, perspective, comments, judgment, or desire to give advice so that we can be fully present to an-other’s story. Next, there needs to be the critical work of not changing their narrative, but validating and learning from their story. In the holy work of Love, there must be conciliation of an-other’s narrative long before re-conciliation — the restoration of friendly relations — is ever possible. The Holy work of conciliation requires a voluntary, flexible, and interest-based process (or negotiation) that attempts resolution of issues raised by and involving the aggrieved person (Oxford Dictionary). In short, conciliation requires humility; to set aside the self and listen to an-other. Healthy and healing conciliation must start with the person who has power over another (eg. those who control resources and decision making). Those who are not in a place of power have often experienced the trauma of being minimized and having their story changed by those with power over them. Conciliation that has the greatest potential for all-encompassing healing must create an environment where the story of an-other —those who ultimately lack power — is received and validated before any true healing can begin. Journey Center of Michigan is intentionally walking the path of holy listening, validating, and offering conciliation as we learn, and ultimately bring to light, our shared story. 

One vital area that we are called to by the sacred work of Love is racial righteousness — the pathway that exposes the sin of racism and illuminates how we can honor God by faithfully loving our neighbor across lines of racial and ethnic differences. To consciously walk this pathway at JCMI, we are intentionally listening and learning from the truth of an-other’s story. On Saturday, October 7th from 9:00 am – 12:30 pm, JCMI will be sponsoring an in-person tour of the history of racism in Detroit. Our guides will be from the group, Arc of Justice.

As people called to Love, we are commanded to come alongside the hurting. This starts with a listening ear and receptive spirit. We hope those in the Detroit area will join us. Go to to learn more. 

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