The Listening Life, Part One

May 3, 2016Janet Wingard

This morning I wanted to share a few thoughts about listening…which is a bit ironic because I’ve discovered I’m not very good at.  Until recently, if you had asked me to rate my listening skills, I would have given myself a high mark. I generally remember conversations and facts that I hear. And when I’m listening to someone, I know to look them in the eye, and lean towards them and nod so they know I’m hearing…But to be honest, all the while I often have a few of my own random thoughts bouncing around in my head...and that’s not truly listening. Sometimes with the chaos in my life…I don’t hear God very well either.

Psychology professor David Brenner says that a major obstacle to growth in our listening abilities is that most of us already think we’re good listeners….so I’m going out on a limb here, because maybe a few of you are like me.

Listening is the first of our senses to develop….and perhaps the last to go when we die. While still in our mother’s womb, we began to hear sounds at 18 weeks….and although I could not find any scientific research to substantiate this, hospice workers and healthcare professionals, and from my own personal experience, I believe that people have the ability to hear almost until their heart stops beating.

Listening comes first in Scriptures. In the beginning was the Word…and somehow the unformed and chaotic universe we read about in Genesis had the ability to hear, because its first action is to listen to the Voice that pierces the darkness. God commands light and the cosmos hears and obeys, and through its acts of listening, order and harmony replace the watery abyss. Six days into the making of this listening world, God creates the first humans, and their original act is to hear the blessing to be fruitful and multiple. Humans were created to be image-bearers and God-listeners.

Throughout the pages of Scripture we see that humans are directed to be listeners. “Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is One” (Dt. 6:4). Jesus called---and the fisherman heard and dropped their nets to follow. We become disciples by hearing, too---for when we heard His call, didn’t our hearts burn within us. Paul reminds us in Romans that hearing must come before faith (Romans 10:17). James tells us to “be quick to listen and slow to speak” (James 1:19).  And the wisdom of Proverbs teaches us to listen before we say a word (Prov. 18:13).

Yet somewhere along the way we have violated God’s order of things. We speak volumes, and listen in snippets. We speak our minds; we interrupt others because we know we are right, or because we know what they’re going to say before the words leave their mouth. We tell God what to give rather than asking what He wants to give….and we fill our life with chaos and projects and lean on our own understanding until our hearts are hard and our ears can’t hear God’s whisper which floats through the Universe. We were born to listen…but have lost the listening life.

Come back tomorrow for part two!