There is an ebb and flow in in conversations, friendships and in ministry. Two are coming together in the Name of Jesus Christ. Time is a valuable gift that God has given each of us (or loaned us) to steward with love in mind. Sometimes time is sacrificial, as we know that it will help the heart of the person we are listening to ... for him or her to be able to share what happened or what God said or to fully be heard. Perhaps they are on the journey of trusting that God hears, and they are reaching for someone with "skin" on. I have watched this ebb and flow often in my close friendships.
God put something unique into you that only you are able to give and share, to encourage others... and put something in me to do the same.
When we come together, it's best when we both recognize that gift and value.
Good friendships will have ups and downs in individual conversations and interactions but there will be much mutual give and receive over time. With one friend who calls, there seems to be a flow that is about even over time. Sometimes she will call and there is a lot going on in her life and so 2/3rds to 3/4ths of the conversation is sharing her day or what went well or what the challenges were or how she needs God in this area. On another day, though trying to keep it even, I may be bursting with good news or something to share, and she listens. If this mostly one sided kind of flow happened all the time it would not be the blessing God intended. Now that may be different in a formal ministry situation where there is instruction or prayer or sharing stories or lessons.
I have another friend that calls only when needy, but when I begin to talk about something meaningful, he finds some excuse to go. He communicates by his actions that he considers himself more valuable, in that he has no compunction about capitalizing another's time or resources, but he does not have time for you. That's his inner world. His outward world involves the pursuit of fame and famous people. Sad, because if he would listen and hear, we could explore his insecure base is finding value and worth externally. Everyone to him is on some continuum of more or less valuable, and so he is on endless pursuit of those he considers more valuable to validate him. Have we not all been there at some stage? God does not want us looking to man for our identity, worth or belonging. Our culture dictates this, but those who commerce in this way of relating with each other in the church do a disservice.
There's another friend I have who makes it a point to wholly focus on only one person at a time. When he is listening or talking with you, anyone who wants to interrupt has to wait until the flow of the conversation opens. Contrast that with the person whose attention is on you and seven other things and people with lots of interruptions. I've been on both sides of his conversations, waiting while he cares for another, but then firmly attended to while we are exchanging conversation.
We can learn a lot from those who have listened to us, and give that gift back to others. God is listening to you, right now, the thoughts and intents of your heart. Sometimes we take it for granted. He is the accessible one to whom we may come boldly for grace and mercy and help. You are never alone, even when no human being is there to hear you out. And yet we are a gift to each other when we are there for each other.
There is so much potential in each person in the body of Christ, we have no business -- it is a sin -- to make others illegitimate or less legitimate.
Our gift is not who we know in terms of fame or human notoriety but that we are known of God and that we know God, and then start walking in who He created us to be. Part of our treasuring and valuing others in the body of Christ and those who hopefully will believe and know what Jesus did for them... part of that is giving people time and listening to them.
But I can also find myself at difficult times talking it out with another. In a multitude of counselors is safety ..
There's a difference between using people and seeking counsel. There is a mutual richness and blessing in godly counsel. There is "using" a person but not giving life back. Think of listening as a form of giving life. When someone gives you of their time when you are in pain or crisis, remember how precious that gift is. Of the hours they have in life, they are giving some to you.
Many believers have not been encouraged in their ministry or calling. They don't (yet) know what to do. You can begin with the ministry of listening. It is a way of building up those who do not feel valued or worthwhile. Give that gift not to the arrogant, narcissistic or self-aggrandizing, but to those whose spirits (spiritual heart) is enlarged in a good way, by your care, and love and presence... just because you value them with your time and attentive listening.
Remember it next time you pick up the phone or are blessed with someone hearing you and tuning in with your heart.