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Learning to Listen


As we wait and watch for the coming of the Lord, we pray for eyes to see…and ears
to hear.

Our ears so easily become clogged, blocked with the constant inner voice of our
own importance that it becomes difficult to listen, truly listen to the voice
outside of us. As pilgrims of Christ, we move toward sight. The great consummation
of our faith is beholding Him as He is: for then we will be changed.

And yet, much of the journey at present is characterized by listening: listening

for the voice that says, “This is the way, walk ye in it.”

To listen, to truly listen, is to submit. The listener yields to the speaker. In a

world consumed by power games, listening suggests weakness. The powerful speak,
the weak listen.

So we find it difficult to listen to God and to one another. In other words, we

fail to have ears that hear. We pass through each moment, deaf to rich voices
surrounding us. Martin Buber once suggested that most conversations are simply two
people engaged in monologues. In other words, we talk at one another.

To truly face another person, is to risk listening, to risk yielding, to risk be

changed. For many years, I have felt compelled by the Lord to cultivate a heart
that listens. And yet, it is difficult. It is hard work. In fact, it is easier to
act like I’m listening than to actually listen. It is easier to look someone in
the eye, nod and react: all the while simply waiting for them to pause and
breathe, so I can start talking again.

I once thought I was listening and waiting for another person to say something of
value that I should remember. Maybe God would be speaking to me through them. But
then the process became listening and filtering at the same time. Most of their
words fell to the ground while I was trying to sort through them, searching for
something that might be of value.

This is not the way to listen. This reduces my relationship with the person to a
completely utilitarian level. They only serve my need. They only have value when
they can impart something useful, interesting, entertaining to me.

More recently, it seems the Lord has challenged to simply listen. Every word we
speak is a precious gift from God. We have yet to grasp the full power of speech.
Words release such power that the writer of Proverbs warns us to be wise in the
use of words.

When a person speaks to me, they are expressing part of who they are. Whether they
seem to rattle on about trivial issues or whether they share deep secrets of the
heart. As I yield, as I listen, I am meeting that person, beholding that person,
encountering that person. As I pay attention, I hear something deeper than the
surface appearance of the words, I hear the person.

Far more is spoken and revealed in our words than we ever realized. And the people
we are most likely to ignore, may be the very ones we should be listening to. We
might think: they complain too much; they’re boring; they tell long, meaningless
stories. We might think of a whole host of reasons for not listening. And yet,
this person is a treasure, a precious creation made in the image of God. Can I for
one moment pause in wonder at the glory and mystery before me?

I am learning and struggling to learn, that if I turn and face another person,
that if I truly listen, I will hear. I really will hear that person, and when I
hear them, I can love them. Even though I may disagree with them, the grace God
working in and through me can teach me to love them. And the amazing thing is that
God can and really does speak through the people who often irritate, bore and even
disagree with me.

There’s a story told of Andrew Murray speaking at one of the Keswick conferences.
A man rose to challenge Murray and the whole proceedings. The leaders gathered
with Murray and suggested they remove that man from the conference. Murray said,
“No. He may be right.” In the end, Murray and the man became friends.

Today, as I watch for the coming of the Son, I seek to listen, to pay attention to
the people around me. For He is coming in each and every moment, and as I listen
and watch, He’ll reveal himself and His love in and through the rich tapestry of
people He has woven into my life.

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