By Joanna Moss

Sitting and Listening: The Call To Being Interruptible

I was learning how to be present.

I was learning what it meant to be interruptible.

I sat with her while she cried and said nothing.

I was learning how to hold the hearts of 40+ young women.

I was learning that we were all so broken and that in the realm of love, a little goes a long way.

These were all things I learned and practiced as a freshman RA.

When I started college, I had originally planned to spend most of my time in class, working at the campus coffee shop, and studying in my room. I'm here to graduate, I told myself, not make friends. If I found myself a lasting friend group in college, that would be a bonus but was never the goal.

I remember my perception of my RA at the beginning of my freshman year: a resident assistant was someone who enforced the rules of open and closed floors and the community covenant of the private Christian college I attended. More importantly though, the RA was supposed to be some kind of built-in friend.

Well that's great, my freshman mind thought. But there's no way that what she's doing is genuine. And being someone who's just on the floor to listen to people's problems? There's no way more than three or four people on this entire floor of 45 girls will actually end up getting close to the RA.

The concept of an RA seemed inefficient and honestly a little embarrassing to me, like someone who invites 50 friends to a party but only 3 show up.

One night during the second semester of freshman year after coming back from working the closing shift at the coffee shop, I decided to accompany a group of people on a Taco Bell run at 1 a.m. It must have been the late night "loopies" that led me to do so, considering that I had a midterm the next morning. Looking back now, I wonder if it was the Holy Spirit.

I didn’t realize that I had been sorely missing spontaneous fun in my life until that night. Almost despite myself, I became fast friends with this Taco-Bell-at-1-a.m. group. This most-unlike-myself behavior would continue past my freshman year.

At the end of my sophomore year, a few close friends from this group wanted to apply to be RAs. They encouraged me to do so as well.

My mind immediately closed the door to the thought. Sure, I had grown a lot, but the role of RA still struck me as wasteful and unproductive. I mean, was listening to others talk about their experience acclimating to private Christian college culture valuable? What was the payoff for being a questionably genuine "built-in-friend" for a whole floor of girls who wouldn't take me up on my offer anyway?

The obvious answers to me were no and not enough. And even if you said that you were doing it for Jesus, you wouldn't actually be doing anything for him. With such a relational role, sometimes your job would just be to sit and listen. What was so valuable about that when there were actual, tangible things you could do for Christ and his kingdom?

A few days shy of the RA application deadline I was taking a walk on the bike path that runs by campus. I was listening to Tim Keller preaching on Luke 10:38-42; the story of Mary and Martha.

I knew this passage well. Mary was listening at the feet of Jesus. Martha was distracted by all the preparations that had to be made. "Martha, Martha," I heard the loving words of Jesus. He was answering Martha's pleas to have Mary help her get the work done. "You are worried and upset about many things, but few things are neededor indeed only one. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her."

Jesus rebuked Martha. She had been focused on getting all these tasks done and he rebuked her, even though they were for him. Instead, he replied that Mary had chosen what was better. All she had been doing was sitting and listening.

Sitting and listening...

I stopped in my tracks. My heart sank.

I suddenly felt very called out. If Jesus valued sitting and listening over busy work accomplished for him, it was me who needed to change my values to align with his.

When I got back to my dorm, the first thing I did was open the RA application. My friends were very happy.

The next year I became an RA and had the honor of serving and living alongside 45 beautiful women, both freshmen and sophomores. I was not a perfect RA by any means, but I am forever grateful for the things I learned and the ways the Lord changed my heart. I watched friendships blossom as the Lord showed me his heart for those he loves. I started valuing relationships and the eternal things that he values over work that I deem to be important in the here and now. 

One of his values is being interruptible. The Lord has grown in me a spirit of “interruptability” through the many conversations and opportunities I've had to serve the girls on my floor—opportunities that often came when I was in the middle of other things. In those moments I would set aside the task at hand to sit and listen.

Blog Categories: 

As a senior at Wheaton College and a former intern with InterVarsity's video team, Joanna enjoys combining her love for stories, making videos, and intercultural experiences to bring Christ and communities closer together.