11 Jan Speak, Lord. I’m listening.
Spend five minutes with me and you’ll know I’m a talker. I use 400 words to say what can be said in 10, often going off on random philosophical tangents. Until recently, I think I often missed it when listener’s eyes glassed over or they started to nod. Denial? Grace? Both. My husband, kids and close friends smile and speed me up. Or get irritated. Sometimes, they will listen with interest, cuz sometimes, I’m saying something interesting, which I sometimes do.
I talk in ideal blog length. Really!
I’ll defend myself by saying that sesquipedalian loquaciousness has its place 😉. Blogging! Experts report that as many as 1900 words is the ideal blog post length to maximize SEO. Google it. It’s true! Heavenly. That’s why I’m gonna start blogging more. I can go on and on about my musings with confidence. Very gratifying and therapeutic. But I digress. I actually want to TALK (writ) about listening, not talking.
Listening is a different matter.
For us talkers, listening can be a problem. And I find, if I’m not actively listening, I’m not hearing. What’s the dif? Well, here’s what Merriam-Webster says:
“Listen: To give one’s attention to a sound; take notice of and act on what someone says; make an effort to hear something; be alert and ready to hear something.
Hear: perceive with the ear the sound made by (someone or something); be told or informed of; be aware of; know of the existence of.”
Listening is more about deliberately tuning in. Hearing is about actually perceiving what’s said. Then there’s understanding what we hear. That’s how I read it anyway.
If you’re speaking, it’s hard to listen and in turn, to hear. Well, duh. Likewise, I find anyway, if you’re busy doing, it’s difficult to be still. I could stop now to find a a few Bible references to back this up, but then this will never get posted and you probably know them anyway (Be still, Martha, God’s whisper, Speak…, etc.).
I’m not the only one who’s “hard of hearing.”
Actually, that last one, 1 Samuel 3:10, is what has been on my mind. God was hollering at Samuel, trying to get his attention and Samuel heard him, but wasn’t understanding it was God speaking. Finally, the elder mentor Eli tells Samuel to lie down and say, “Speak, LORD, your servant is listening.”
It’s only then, when Samuel was still, attentive, receptive and quiet, that he heard God speak.
Listening is intentional.
Then, there’s that other telling passage in 1 Kings 19. God showed up for a distressed Elijah not in the wind, earthquake or fire, but in a whisper. Have you ever really wanted to hear something or someone very quiet and found yourself intentionally straining to hear?
There’s an elderly man at church who is endearing, witty and wise and says endearing, witty, wise things in a very gentle whisper. When possible, I draw very close to him to hear him. But even even in a somewhat noisy environment, I strain to listen to hear what he has to say. Because I want to fully understand.
Selah. Let’s just sit with that for a minute.
Because of my tendency to talk and do, I seldom tune in like that to the GOD of the Universe, who truly has all the answers! What’s my problem? I mean, seriously, with all I have going on in my life that is so beyond my pay grade, why would I not open a parentheses in my day to tune in to GOD 101.7, the ultimate call-in authority, better than Click and Clack, Dr. Laura and Dave Ramsey combined.
Good thing God is merciful and gracious. Like he did with Samuel, he calls out again and again to get my attention, and kindly sends friends as little messengers.
Working on my undergrad in basic spiritual practices.
I find God deals with me in themes. Long lesson plans on a particular topic. Invitations to stillness, rest and listening, in that order, have been major themes for a long while. I have not been an easy case. Ever.
Lesson 1.A. on the syllabus: Stillness and rest. I’ve made great headway. It’s not been linear or entirely progressive. Some “one step forwards, two step backs.” There have been meandering detours, but I am soooooooo much better at being still, present and restfully peaceful no matter what’s going on. I love it. It’s like a superpower. And like all superpowers, endowed from beyond (Phil 4:7-9, John 14:7, +++) and the result of humbling brokenness (more Bible verses) rather than wise obedience.
Relevant sidebar: Mary Barra, 21st century wise woman.
Little sidebar on the subject…One of my longtime inspirations for this superpower is Mary Barra, first female CEO & Chairwoman of General Motors. I first saw her interviewed on CBS Sunday Morning, where she described her 35-year ascent from 18 year-old intern. Soon after she took the helm at GM, she faced the catastrophic recalls of several models, with flaws that were eventually linked to nearly 100 deaths and 163 injuries.
During the interview, Mary was calm yet not passive, concerned but not defensive, authoritative yet humble. She also talked about ending meetings to make her daughter’s soccer games and in general, conveyed great wisdom, balance and peace.
Even though I have no ambitions to be a CEO of a massive enterprise, I wanted what she had and have thought of her often during my arduous coursework. So Mary seems to have stillness and peace. And while didn’t say it specifically, I’ll bet she’s also learned to listen. To listen to various others, to listen to herself, and to listen to the still small voice that guides her conscience and actions.
Progress, not perfection.
Yet, for me, the silent listening…Well, it’s (I’m) a work in progress. Little gains here and there. I was maybe busy congratulating myself on improved stillness, or at least coasting a little in a contented lull, not overly anxious to JUST SHUT UP.
God is merciful and gracious.
Doing it the hard way. Plz learn from my mistakes.
In October, I got this crazy upper respiratory/sore throat virus that came and went and came again. Twice. For me, it also manifested with laryngitis, which I’ve gotten at least twice a year for a long time. Duh. Once again, what is it with me? How dense?
This time, apart from it taking a long time to get better, even now, I am still slightly hoarse. There’s the slight unpleasantness of hoarseness and of that unfamiliar sexy Debby Harry tone. But after finally googling hoarseness, I was a little troubled by the prospect of permanently damaging my singing voice. Mind you, I don’t sing on stage, but singing is SO important to me…for prayer, worship and pleasure…it gave me pause. The treatment, of course, is resting. The voice. Which means, SHUT UP.
So often, it does take extreme measures to reach me. And still I’m struggling to be quiet.
If I intellectually value what God has to say and I’ve read the syllabus. Why don’t I just sit and listen? Am I afraid of what I’ll hear? In my own heart? In God’s whisper? Sounds like a blog post for another time.
Listen, I’m a mom of two young energetic and chatty boys, for goodness sake! Yes, I’m a writer working from home, but it’s not like I don’t have to talk sometimes. I see people all the time. I mean, I have to talk.
“Isabella, girl, the justification, it’s just not working for ya.”
But when I don’t have to talk, can I make time to listen?
Speak God, I’m (finally) listening.
I’m being pressed into it, nicely coinciding with my church’s http://www.harborsidechurch.org/ annual, church-wide fast. How handy. So I’ve added this prayer to my list of fasting intentions.
Not to be pious, but because I WANT and NEED to hear what God is whispering. I LONG to hear it.
God, help me to listen. Help me to hear.
Remember: God loves you no matter what.
Grace, peace, love and joy,
P.S. 1,394 words! I could go on, but the kids are about to get up.