Many of you are aware I have been writing and reflecting over the past five posts on listening. I was certain I had shared all I wanted to include until today.
Yes, most importantly, learning to listen for the whispers of the One who loves us everlastingly with such grace and mercy is the most important habit we can develop.
Yes, all of us improve the quality of any relationship when we have honed our listening skills and continued to grow in them. (I know that is true for me even though I listened to people in my office every day of every week for almost thirty years.)
Yes, listening to others and their stories enriches our lives and expresses love as few other things can. If you are tempted to disagree, try to recall when you last took time for an unhurried visit with someone in your life. If you do, you likely will recall a sense of how graciously they expressed their appreciation for the visit as you were leaving if you have listened well.
One other thing is important if we are to be effective in our listening.
We need to listen to our lives, to sense what every aspect of who we are is saying to us. That includes paying attention, listening, to our body. In this fast-paced life most of us lead, we push ourselves so often and so frequently we tune out what our body is cuing in on. Often it is only when we get sick, we actually hear there is something being communicated.
But our bodies try to let us know long before then much of the time. They cue us that we are tired, but we drink another cup of coffee or tea instead (maybe even an energy drink). Our bodies tell us with headaches, with grumpiness, and a great many other things.
It is not only our bodies that get tired, however. We get depleted in the cognitive, emotional, spiritual, and relational areas as well. Those are sometimes harder to read or hear, as the clues may seem subtler. Our emotions run on the edge or get dulled. Our thinking takes a more critical edge or we simply don’t want to make even one more decision. We feel bored or dry in times with the Lord or the worship service at church leaves us cold. We start to find our relationships are not nurturing us and feel as though we are the ones doing all the giving.
These are things any of us can easily rationalize or explain away and often do, but over time they begin to build up and take a toll. I know. I have experienced it. One example was a vacation trip where I slept for eleven hours the first night we arrived at our destination. Another was when I felt uncreative about a variety of areas in my life whether it was what to make for dinner, what to read, where to go for a date night, and the list could go on.
You see, the Lord wired us to have such signals for our benefit to lead healthy lives, but if we keep turning down the volume, switching channels, or avoiding what we might be hearing our finite body, mind, emotions, and spirit will not be able to keep up.
If we are going to bring the Lord glory in all we do and say, if we are to remember He values us and deems us precious, then we must learn that what happens to us matters and has meaning.
John Calvin has said, “without knowledge of self there is no knowledge of God.”
We need to learn to discern what our life is telling us. We can only do that when we are listening, testing, sifting through what we sense in our internal world. That helps us discern what the Lord wants us to know, see, and understand.
In The Listening Life, Adam McHugh puts it this way:
“Your thoughts, emotions, impulses, desires, values, passions, dreams, recurring questions and bodily responses have meaning, are trying to teach you, and all are interconnected. They are telling you what your life is like. The voices that you choose to listen to are shaping what kind of person you are becoming.
Self-discovery is not the ultimate end of listening to your life; love is. If we want to listen to others with compassion, gentleness and attentiveness, then we must learn to listen to ourselves with those same qualities. If we do the work in the quiet spaces, our compulsions will come out less when it’s loud.”
If we seek to cease striving, running, or escaping, we need to intentionally gain courage to seek quiet. If we don’t take time to “be,” we will never have time to truly listen.
Marian Wright Edelman has written these powerful words:
“Learn to be quiet enough to hear the genuine within yourself so that you can hear it in others.”
I don’t know about you, but I really don’t want to miss the precious gems the Lord wants to share with me. I also don’t want to miss hearing the stories of the people I love.
“Listening is a gift. It is a gift from God to us that sparks intimacy, that helps us grow into servants and disciples, that promises constant learning and self-discovery, that helps us never lose the childlike gift of being surprised, and that assures us of guidance and the awareness of God’s presence. It is a gift that God offers—in the staggering discovery that God actually listens to us—and it is a gift we offer others, an open invitation to receive whatever they choose to share with us.
Will you embrace the gift of listening?”
From The Listening Life by Adam McHugh