When do you practice the art of listening? I know you’re going to say you’re listening all the time. It’s not as if you can turn off your ears and just decide not to hear what’s going on around you. That is true, our ears are always “On.”
As my father got older, my mother complained he was losing his hearing. She would be talking to him, and sometimes she said he acted as if he hadn’t heard a word she had said. Of course she claimed he had selective hearing. The truth was, my father’s hearing had diminished with age, just as mine has. Still, he was hearing sound all the time, it just needed to be a little louder, a little clearer, a little deeper in tone.
Each of us hear a lot of “stuff” all the time. Some of what we hear is useful. We hear directions when our Google assistant, or On Star, or Siri, or whatever digital assistant we access tells us how to get where we’re going. We hear our doctors when they tell us important information regarding our health. We hear those who try to tell us where to find some item in the store. Some of what we hear is uplifting and comforting. We hear our significant others, our children, our grandchildren, our friends when they tell us they love us. We hear when someone tries to comfort us in our loss. We hear when people bestow compliments on things we’ve done. Some of what we hear is soothing. We hear the music that is played. We hear the soft sounds of nature: rippling water, birds singing, wind blowing, trees creaking. Some of what we hear is frightening and jarring. We hear cries from those in need. We hear crunching metal when auto accidents occur. We hear sirens on emergency vehicles.
So, we’re hearing all the time, we can’t shut off the sound that reaches our ears.
Again though, when are we listening? Hearing and listening are two very different things. Hearing happens without us doing anything but being the receptor for the sounds we hear. Listening, on the other hand, only occurs when we actively engage with the sound we hear. Listening occurs when we decide to pay attention to what is being said to us. We hear all the time, but are we listening?
One of the things I’ve discovered in my time in ministry is, people feel a need to be listened to. Each of us, need to know someone is paying attention to what we’re saying, what we’re trying to convey about what’s going on inside of us. We want someone to hear our words, hear our joy, hear our pain, hear our sadness, hear our excitement. In order for someone to hear those things from us, they have to be listening. We each want to know we are important enough for someone to really listen to us.
I recently ran across this quote from Dietrich Bonhoeffer…“We are silent early in the morning because God should have the first word. And we are silent before going to bed because the last word belongs to God.”
This has me thinking about when we practice our listening with God?
First thing in the morning and last thing at night sound like the perfect times. It’s usually quiet first thing in the morning. If we would only listen for what God is saying each morning, what would our day look like? Would those anxious moments become fewer and fewer because we are listening. Because we are listening, God speaks peace to our heart and soul. Would those fearful times be turned aside because we are listening. Fear comes at any time, but because we listen God speaks a word to dissuade those feelings of fear.
Last moments of the evening before we go to sleep, what a great time to listen to what God is whispering in our ears. The day may have been a doozy, but if we are listening we can hear God tell us to let todays troubles melt away, tomorrow will be a new day. In those moments before we close our eyes, what will we hear if we are listening? We will hear God telling us we are the very image of God and that image is glorified in what we’ve done and said that day. We will hear how incredibly loved we are by the One who breathes life into us. We will hear the words of comfort we need to soothe our wounded spirits. We will hear all we need for our sleep to be restful and refreshing.
Let’s you and me try on our listening ears and hearts. Let’s listen to God early and late. If we listen, we will hear, and our connection to the Divine will be more than we can imagine.
Blessings and Peace,