Early in 2011, I started interviewing a woman at my church regarding a writing project that I was working on at the time. I knew very little about her, but I had already determined that although she was pleasant to spend time with, we had very little in common and were unlikely to become close friends.
How wrong I was...
Jodee, whom I knew only in passing, had agreed to a series of interviews, and I looked forward to hearing her input on the matter at hand.
That's how it started.
We began meeting once a week for an hour or two after work.
We had this routine: I would show up at her front door, be mauled by her children, sniffed by her dog, and handed a cup of coffee. We'd quickly dispense with small talk; then we'd step out onto the back porch, check the patio furniture for snakes (she was still fairly new to Florida, and skittish), and sit down with a recorder between us.
Jodee would begin talking, and I would listen.
Other than asking a clarifying question here and there, I listened largely without interruption, taking it all in.
This went on for months.
This was the quietest I had ever been in the early days of a friendship (and therefore possibly the wisest, although it was an unwitting wisdom). I laugh now to think how surprised I was the day that I realized how similar we really are and that although the trappings of our lives are disparate, the essentials are the same.
The interviews came to an end after about a year, but the weekly coffee dates continued.
Jodee and Bethany created their own separate bond, and the three of us developed strong ties of fellowship, community, and love.
We started going for "family" meals, working out together, sharing book recommendations, studying the Bible together, and (eventually) even taking some very memorable trips riddled with hijinks and hilarity.
We're so close now that I sometimes have to remind myself that our friendship is still fairly new in terms of years; but what we lack in length, we've made up for in depth, entering fully into each other's lives, not sparing the unsightly bits that we're sometimes tempted to withhold from others out of pride or fear.
This sort of trust and understanding would likely never had developed if I hadn't spent those first few months committed to something in which I too rarely indulge: deep, constructive listening.
This is probably the only friendship I have that's based on so much early, focused listening. After all, I'm usually the one doing most of the talking in any given scenario.
I say this to my shame.
The Bible has plenty to say about the importance of listening--both to God and to others--and we'd all do well to pay heed to the advice of Scripture.
Also, please understand that when I say that I look up to Jodee, I mean that both literally and figuratively.
She is tall, she is wise, and she is strong.
I'm blessed to call her friend.