God’s listening heart is like no other, but we are being made and shaped into his image. What is the path to developing a listening heart like his?
It can be easy for any of us to say that He is perfect so of course He has a listening heart as described in my previous post (https://pamecrement.com/2021/03/22/not-too-good-to-be-true/). Perhaps that heart stems first of all from being the only one who loves perfectly. There is not one smidgeon of love in Him that is tainted with sin or self. He simply is love. He is omnipresent and yet is never too busy to listen to the heart of any of his creation that calls out to Him.
If He calls us to love, to be like Him, then how do we finite humankind fixed in time and space develop a listening heart? How do we begin since it is evident that we cannot say we are simply born this way or not?
There are many ingredients and no true recipe since He likely adapts the path according to the design of each one of us and his purposes.
One thing on the list would surely be acquainted with suffering. Isaiah 53:3 (ESV) says in part, “He was despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief…” God gave us a graphic image of his willingness to suffer when He came as Christ and endured a cruel tortuous cross alone. He gave up Himself for us while knowing those disciples then (and now) would often let Him down, stumble, walk away, and not model that perfect love and listening heart He modeled. It was the cross that was the test of obedience.
He chose to be poured out and broken for any and all who would receive Him based on who He is, not who or what they were. He already knew He would pay the price for many more who would betray and reject Him. He learned obedience by first listening and then suffering.
“Even though Jesus was God’s Son, he learned obedience from the things he suffered.”Hebrews 5:8 (NLT)
Christ’s listening heart was shaped through suffering, but first and above all, He listened.
To be like Him, the path for us starts there as well.
Learning to listen to Him moves beyond listening to the preached Word or trying to be obedient to the commands we see there.
We get to know someone best by listening carefully to them. We are not distracted by our environment, our own thoughts, how we want to respond, what we hope to get from the other person, or what we want that other person to think of us. That requires a good bit of practice and dying to self on every level. It means we aren’t first listening so he or she will then listen to what we want to share, but rather selflessly listening to come to know the heart of the other person.
And it starts with our vertical relationship with God. It goes beyond “hearing” the preached Word or reading the Bible. It goes beyond praying to Him and moves us to make the time in prayer a time of relationship development where we don’t do all the talking. We pause and take time to really listen and practice it, so we come to learn to know his voice within our own hearts, minds, and spirits as if He were right there enjoying a conversation with us.
How much do we want to really know Him and his heart? We “hear” Him in multiple ways, but as we speak and pause to listen for that “still small voice” we will come to know Him best. We will know more about the depth of his love and affection for us and that will shape us more into his image and hone obedience.
How precious is the sound of the voice of a child to a parent! How reassuring and comforting the voice of a parent whispering into the ear of a child!
In my little corner of the world those words whispered as I wait are so precious that I do not want to forget them or later be tempted by the enemy to believe He never speaks to me, so my journal contains the conversation between us as a testimony of the vertical relationship we share, and I seek to know Him better.
And the enemy of our souls hates that because he knows how much deeper it will forge the bond of love between us. He knows it will allow me (us) to develop more of a listening heart.
That will allow me to be used on assignment by Him to listen to others, to come to hear his nudge about needs they may not be able to express or feel safe enough to share as well as any they do. Then my heart will look more like his because the time in his Word and listening to his voice will adjust my self focus to HIS focus. That also comes from reading the whole book about Him not just bits and pieces that I find easy. He wants us to know Him on every page from Genesis to Revelation.
A great illustration of that is found in Revelation 10:9 where John is told to take an open book from the angel and eat it. Beyond the rest of that passage, have you considered what God is saying there?
“St John is told not only to take the open book but to eat it. Eating a book takes it all in, assimilating it into the tissues of your life.”Eugene Peterson in Reversed Thunder
When we have assimilated Him into the tissues of our life, our words and actions will leak in consistent congruent patterns that convey HIS listening heart because we have first listened to Him.