Are you listening?
By Pastor Lee Hemen
April 12, 2015
I like listening in on conversations. Yes, I suppose you could call me an eavesdropper, but really this carries with it so many nasty connotations. I prefer to be known as an observer of people and listening to them is part of the character of someone like me. Why just the other day I was listening to my grandson and wife talking together. He had climbed onto her lap and was enjoying a book with her. She exclaimed, “I like it when you climb into my lap and snuggle with me.” Then I heard him giggle in response and reply, “I like snuggling with you too grandma.” Now, how in the world could anyone not want to overhear that!
I am a fulltime pastor and a part time “recess teacher” during the week at a local elementary school. I have learned by listening in on conversations how many of the children there are neglected, loved, pampered, or encouraged. I have discovered that in fact many of these children who suffer the most in their home-lives do so because no one listens to their conversation; how utterly sad. I have now made it a duty when I am there interacting with them by listening. I have learned lots of important things from them as I do. I have learned of incarcerated parents, drug-addicted siblings, grandparents becoming parents again, childish wishes, inspiring dreams, the wonderful language of play, angry words, and loving acceptance. I have heard a lot while kneeling down to tie shoelaces, putting a Band-Aid on a scrape, or encouraging a newly found monkey-bar skill.
In a world where we text far more than we write letters and even where emails are now “old-fashioned” I have discovered listening again. There is something sweet and wonderful about doing so. While at a local grocery store I listened in as a young couple interacted over what they would buy for dinner that night. It was to be a celebration with her parents over her pregnancy. Heads together as they both pushed their shopping cart down the aisle their conversation was one of joy.
You know, our prayer is to be like that as well. I believe we are to listen far more than we are to talk with God. I think we have forgotten how and what that means. Prayer is not just speaking at God; it is actually pausing and listening to what he wants to say to us as well. Far too often we meander on and on about things we already know the answer to and just keep babbling because we cannot shut up and listen. Perhaps we are afraid of what God might tell us! Jesus told his disciples, “But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you. And when you pray, do not keep on babbling like pagans, for they think they will be heard because of their many words.” (Matthew 6:6-7 NIV) The idea here is one of conversation and listening.
There is an art to listening. This is what my uncle used to tell me. Then he would pat my shoulder and remark, “It means Art should be quite and listen!” (Of course he meant me.) My mother used to ask us over and over, “Are you listening to me?” or “You haven’t heard a single word I’ve said!” She knew listening was important too. Not that everything everyone says is important because it surely is not, but I learned when my mother spoke, you listened.
Yes we should actively listen to others, but we should also listen to God more importantly. Psalm 81 is all about how we should listen to God more, which is kind of interesting because we read in many of the Psalms how the writer is often crying out for God to listen to him! Doesn’t God already hear us and know about our circumstance? I guess we are like children who want attention fast and we think we get it quickest by crying out as loud as we can! Jesus told his followers, “For there is nothing hidden that will not be disclosed, and nothing concealed that will not be known or brought out into the open. Therefore consider carefully how you listen. Whoever has will be given more; whoever does not have, even what he thinks he has will be taken from him.” (Luke 8:17-18 NIV) In fact Jesus would later respond that “My mother and brothers are those who hear God’s word and put it into practice.” (Luke 8:21 NIV) I guess listening to God is very important indeed. This is why he would teach, “My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me.” (John 10:27 NIV) And like James, Jesus’ brother, I believe “everyone should be quick to listen” and “slow to speak”!
Now, did you hear what I just told you?
This article is copyrighted © 2015 by Lee Hemen and is the sole property of Lee Hemen, and may not be used unless you quote the entire article and have my permission.