Is Your Soul Hard of Hearing?

If you asked an impartial artist to render a symbolic drawing of the American church, I can only imagine that she would draw some kind of being, covered with talking mouths.

As if the body of Christ had made a visit to Chernobyl and, like deformed frogs affected by acid rain, had over-produced the moving lips and wagging tongues of God.

As if the world was full of Lucy’s, Linus’s and Charlie Brown’s and the American church was the teacher’s voice “wah, wah, wah, wah, wah, wah”. Or the drone of Ben Stein as the uninspired science teacher in “The Wonder Years.”

How different would it be if the family portrait of the church was characterized by a listening ear.

James, who was a writer with a direct and active approach to faith, wrote this: “My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry” James 1:19

This is a hard work verse.

Recently, I ran my first conference call and by the end of the hour, I was spent! As a participant in these calls, I could tune out occasionally or allow my attention to wander. As administrator, it was my job to listen to everyone and that was draining. It was eye-opening to realize that as much as I care about listening, it is obviously a muscle that needs further conditioning.

To listen means to care about hearing what the other person is saying more than about preparing your answer. To listen sometimes means to allow another to direct the course of the conversation. To listen means to relinquish a measure of control. To listen means to slow down, sometimes to stop, to meander, and sometimes to run off course (or agenda) for the sake of another’s needs. To listen means to put others first.

“Most conversations are simply monologues delivered in the presence of witnesses.” This quote by crime/mystery writer, Margaret Millar, is a spoonful of medicine for those of us trying to share our faith.

There is, certainly, a time to speak. Speak out. Speak up. Speak the truth in love. Testify. Bear Witness. Exhort. Encourage. Edify.

But, we were designed with one mouth and two ears and I know that was no accident. Certainly, then, the body of Christ should listen, at least twice as much as it speaks.

There is listening to others. Really hearing what they have to say. Listening does not mean that we compromise the truth. It simply means we love and respect others enough to minister to them through hearing their voice.

There is also listening to the Holy Spirit. Jesus repeated an important phrase during His ministry on earth that became a drumbeat during John’s vision in Revelation: “Whoever has ears, let them hear.” I have to believe that the more we approach the end of the age, the more important it will be for us to listen to the Spirit of God.

We are often frustrated that our words do not have the effect we desire them to have. But we have to understand that words are tools (or weapons). Knowing which word to pull out of our kit requires first assessing the situation – in other words, listening first will render our resulting speech more effective in the long run.

Perhaps we have pulled out an exhortation when encouragement was the tool for the job. Or we’ve been encouraging what should have been hammered with truth. Or we’ve been facing a barrier that is impervious to words in its current state, it feeds on words like a fire feeds on oxygen but it will be diminished, weakened by a diet of silence.

The Spirit knows.

Aahh, this is why we have two ears. Listen to the Spirit. Listen to others. Then speak. Aahhh. I seriously just got that.

This week, I am going to try to listen first in every conversation.

I am going to try to live out James 1:19. Before I give an answer to anything, I will ask a question or reflect back what the other has said so I know for certain I have heard them correctly. I am going to spend more time reflecting on what God says than badgering Him with my requests.

This week, in the body of Christ, rather than be a voice for God, I will try to be an ear for Him.

I’ll let you know what I hear. Take a minute and tell me your thoughts – in fact, take two.

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    The Conversation

  1. Karin says:

    As pastoral assistant in a long-term care centre I listen more than I speak. I do find that there are times when I would like to speak – not to the residents – but to my family and friends. Because of their perceived need to talk, however, I find I have to listen there too. I do wish that in relationship with people we would take turns – talking, listening, sharing at a deeper heart level! In my relationship with the Lord, I’m the one who needs to listen more and He’s still working on me!

    You’ve given me lots to think on again! Thanks.

  2. Carmen says:

    People tell me I’m a good listener. I recognized a lot of what it means to be a listener in the post above. It’s something I do, but it can be frustrating, if I were to be completely honest. It’s really nice when someone else listens once in a while too. Like you said, listening is placing others first…and that doesn’t come naturally. It’s a muscle that always needs toning!