Listening is a critical life skill. I’ve often heard it said the Lord gave us two ears and one mouth for a reason. We should spend twice as much time listening as we do speaking. Listening involves more than hearing. I can hear something without paying much attention. Listening requires greater intentionality. In music, skillful players know how to listen to one another, paying attention to what fellow bandmates are playing, and figuring out when and how much they need to contribute at just the right time. Excellent bands consist of musicians who listen to each other. Our listening skills influence our relationships with God and with others.
How is your relationship with God? Are you actively listening to Him? We practice listening to Him when we invest time reading His word and spend time with Him in prayer. At first, reading the Bible may seem like a one-way conversation with God doing all the talking. But when we study and meditate on what we’ve read, we’re entering into a two-way conversation with the Ancient One. Scripture informs us of the Anointed One and reveals to us the Advocate we have in the Holy Spirit.
Like reading the Bible, prayer can resemble a one-way street with us doing all the driving and directing. As we develop and grow in our prayer life, we learn to do more listening and less talking. Prayer isn’t all about us talking to God. It’s more about us listening to the Lord.
What does your relationship with others look like today? The most important others in your life are your spouse, your kids, and your family. They are your first ministry. You will be accountable for how you stewarded those relationships. No one lies on their deathbed wishing they had more time to work. No one wants to stand at the foot of a loved ones bed thinking about what has been left unsaid that needs to be said. Yet, sometimes we find ourselves oceans apart from those closest to us.
Several years ago, my Dad had a massive stroke. The stroke left Dad without the ability to recall long-term memories or form new short term memories. Standing at the foot of his bed, I observed my Mom sitting next to him, caressing his hand. As Dad opened his eyes, he looked at Mom and then at me. As Dad stared at me, a puzzled expression permeated his face.
Looking me in the eye, Dad asked, “Who are you?”
My heart sank. My Dad didn’t recognize me. For all intent and purposes, the man I knew was gone, just like I had been wiped clean from his memory slate. In that moment, I also realized that any thing left unsettled and unsaid would remain that way. There were no more arguments to be had. No more discussions. No more debates. How will I make him feel loved? How can I help him remember me? Everything was settled between us now, the chips landing wherever they had fallen before he had suffered his stroke.
We can’t take the people we love for granted. We can’t assume they know how we feel or how much we care. Love is an action verb. It needs to be demonstrated daily, both to the Lord of Lords who loves us and to those we love.
Are we pouring into the lives of those God has put in our circle of influence? The people we work with during the week along with the people who worship with us on Sunday mornings need us to speak truth and love into their lives, give them aid and comfort, and share the ups and downs of life together. We should strive to put more in their bucket then we take out.
The above things require listening, not just with our ears, but with all of our senses and along with our hearts. Listening is a skill that needs to be part of our toolset as Christians living in the 21st century. Otherwise, we might miss the beauty hidden beneath the ocean’s roar.