Google the word “listen”, and you will get a LOT of sites to view concerning the art of listening. I guess I never thought of listening as an art form, just a skill that we hone with age. Unless we are born with diminished or no hearing, our ears automatically do their job and hear. We are able to hear sounds, and eventually identify and distinguish them. We must, however, be taught to listen, as a mother learns the different nuances of their baby’s cries: hungry, happy, lonely, wet, etc… The child is the same, the voice is the same, but at times sounds louder than another time, or more soulful, sometimes frantic. Mother’s learn to know the cry, and respond accordingly.
When I was very little, I would bring my mother to utter exasperation because I didn’t respond appropriately to her instructions. She told me that one time, while at the doctor’s office for my regular checkup, she mentioned to the Dr. that I was the most obstinate child she had ever encountered! She went on to tell him that often she would speak to me and I would literally just sit and ignore her. The Dr. apparently thought that a little odd, and asked her some questions, and then offered that he thought I should go to a specialist for a complete hearing evaluation, because he suspected I was hearing impaired. She said she told him that was impossible, because if a truck went down the street or an airplane flew overhead, I would hold my ears and scream and hide under the dining room table. If I could hear that, I could certainly hear her speaking to me! Even so, he insisted, and off to a hearing specialist I went.
I was very young, and have only vague memories of it all. I do remember extremely painful earaches, lying with my ears on a heating pad, and a lot of trips to the Dr. I thought that was pretty cool because his nurse’s name was also Margaret, and she taught me how to type it on her typewriter (a big deal for a 4 year old!). Mom told me I had lost 60% of the hearing in both ears, and somehow noises such as trucks and planes seemed amplified to me. I went through 3 surgeries on my ears, the last one taking my tonsils and adenoids and inserting tubes into my ears. She was unable to tell me what was really wrong with me, or even what the first 2 surgeries entailed, but she said for one solid year the doctor, and only the doctor, had to put drops in my ears. She said they were some kind of experimental medicine. (Again, I have no idea what they were or what they did). I remember being at the doctor’s office a lot, and also him coming to the house a lot. Whatever they did to me, it worked, because my hearing was greatly improved and considered “within normal limits” at the end of it all. After all of that, I was able to hear, but had to learn how to listen and respond.
I think sometimes we are losing our hearing in the instantaneous writings of this electronic age. We pay attention only to the loud and sudden noises that get our attention. Take tweeting: random thoughts bookended by a hashtag: strobe-light communication. They drive me crazy. (Sorry all of you tweeters; nothing personal). We are losing the ability of deeper communication, thus the ability to listen. One can hashtag a very limited number characters, and another can read it in 2 seconds, even responding to it. But are we asking “why” of a hashtag phrase? Of course not. The very design of this form of communication is to hurry up and get it out, hurry up and read it, with no expectations. Reading without full comprehension, hearing without listening.
I think of my life and the many wonderful and lifelong friendships I am blessed with. One thing I know: these relationships were formed over many hours of conversation, spending time together, and getting to know each other. I have a friend I met in first grade, at the age of 5. We spent a lot of time together in grammar school, and even though we both moved to other places for high school, we spent our holiday breaks and much time together over the summers. Time has gone on, and we have each raised our families, and we probably only see each other about once a year now. But as soon as we call each other, it’s like we never spent any time apart. We know how to listen to each other. Friends know how to listen and know the unspoken “why” of a call. We hear the joy, the pain, the frustration and elation in one another’s voice. We let the other one talk as long as they need to, and we listen. Friendships don’t just happen, they are cultivated over time, through spending time together and listening.
A relationship with God is cultivated the same way. We do not have to strive for salvation, we need only accept Him, but if we really want to know Him, we need to learn to listen to Him. How? Read the Bible, set aside time to spend with Him and pray. His still, small voice will become a part of who you are, and you will hear Him. As we tend to that relationship, we become doers of His word, not just hearers. We hone the art of listening to Him, and It’s like our spiritual ears are opened and we comprehend who He is, and how important we are to Him. We find out who we are, who we were designed to be.
“But prove yourselves doers of the word, and not merely hearers who delude themselves. For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks at his natural face in a mirror; for once he has looked at himself and gone away, he has immediately forgotten what kind of person he was.” James 1:22-24
Have you taken a look at your spiritual self lately? Sum up in one sentence who you think God made you to be. Spend some time with Him, and let Him show you the multi-faceted prism of beauty He created in you!