The Art of Listening

“So take care how you listen…” (Luke 8:18)

I remember when our sons were young, they both overflowed with so much imagination and creativity. They continuously entertained us as make believe super heroes, adorned in elaborate costumes and speaking hilariously in these low but squeaky cartoon like voices. Their friends and acquaintances came to life inside their untainted imaginations as they carried on serious and profound conversations. We even found ourselves listening and joining in. Even today the whole family laughs together as we remember Fuffy the bear and Hanger the monkey soaring overhead, coming to our rescue in their magnificent flying machine. We cherish the memories and are somewhat befuddled at how fast time flies and how quickly young boys grow into men. In the midst of all their antics, I realize now my sons weren’t so much trying to impress us as they just longed for our full attention. It’s true though, the busyness of life robs us of those precious moments. Have you ever had a two year old put their two little hands on your face and turn your head so you will look at them and give them your full attention? What a picture that paints.

A few years back, in Austin, a homeless lady on the street corner caught my attention. I parked the truck and walked across the busy street to greet her. Obviously she had been attractive in her earlier years and was extremely intelligent. She offered up no kind of scam and just seemed grateful to have someone to talk to. I remembered asking her, “How in the world did you end up on the street?” That’s all it took, one simple question, and for the next hour I sat and listened to her story. Again I realized what a fine line it is between having a comfortable, successful life compared to finding yourself helpless, desperate, and barely surviving on the street. I’ve not seen her since but I’m often reminded of that encounter and what she said in the end. Sobbingly, through tear filled eyes, she said, “You are the only person that has ever taken the time to listen to me. I love you. Thank you so much!” I remember holding it together pretty good until I got back in the truck where I proceeded to totally loose it.

The missionary, Jim Elliot is quoted as saying, “Wherever you are, be all there.” I’ve learned that listening is a developed skill. I’m not always successful, but when I remember, I try to give people my full attention, like Jim says, “Be all there.” Probably the most important quality in friendship, ministry, parenting and life in general is listening. Sometimes, in a conversation, I find myself so busy preparing in my mind what I want to say that I’m not really listening to what the other person is saying. Sometimes I just zone out in my own imagination and all I hear is a faint blah, blah, blah. Sad but true. Help me Jesus! Have you ever wondered how this might relate to our relationship with the Lord?

A few years ago I was asked to teach at a home gathering of University students. The house was bursting at the seams and I so wanted to give them something substantial to practice and hold on to. Later Joel (the Pastor) and myself adopted the name Four Fifteen. In the world we eat and the result is we are full and satisfied. In the Kingdom of God, the more you eat spiritually the hungrier we stay. Just as a starting place I encouraged them to practice these disciplines for fifteen minutes each day, (1)PRAY…(2)STUDY THE BIBLE…(3)TALK TO SOMEONE ABOUT JESUS…(4)BE STILL AND LISTEN TO HOLY SPIRIT.

Surprisingly, listening generated the most feedback and the most questions. I do love this new generation of Christ followers! They are completely out of the box with no limits.  

However, on the flip side of this, when we pray, we correctly assume we have Our Father’s full and utmost attention. It’s true, the Lord is absolutely moved by our prayers! He listens, He cares, He responds, He loves, He guides, He protects, He provides! ASK! SEEK! KNOCK! There is no end. Need I say more? So now it’s up to us to provide Him the opportunity to speak. And when He does speak, we purpose ourselves to be all there, giving Him our full and undivided attention. It’s just such a reciprocal relationship, we worship, we pray, on our face we cry out to the Lord. In essence we are taking our little hands and gently turning Our Heavenly Father’s face toward us, saying “Daddy please pay attention to me!” In perfect form, He places His strong hands on our face to turn our face toward Him as He gently whispers and often times shouts, “I love you child!”

“When You said, “Seek My face,” my heart said to You, “Your face O Lord, I shall seek.”

(Psalms 27:8)

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