In my last article, I poked fun at parents who presumptuously assume the role of advice givers to us expecting folks. It is a humorous phenomenon, but it brings up another point.
(Side update note: Yes, we're STILL waiting for our lil guy to drop the Occupy Movement.)
When people ask how it's going and how we're feeling, but then immediately have an answer for my response, I can't help but feel like they were never really listening in the first place. Have you ever felt like people may hear you, but no one is really listening? I think it is a common feeling. And a painful one. There really is a difference between being heard and being listened to, isn’t there?
When someone is only hearing you, it seems like they only listen until they think they “get it” (which they never really do). Then they’re just waiting for the moment when they can start talking and have tuned you out. With some folks, they’re convinced that they “get it” before you even say anything (having grown up around pastors and in church environments, this seemed like a pandemic)!
When someone is listening to you, they’re not as interested in what’s being communicated as they are the one who is communicating. It’s about relationship! And it’s the threshold of intimacy.
I believe it is with this understanding that Jesus said:
Therefore consider carefully how you listen. – Luke 8.18
Imagine how all those historical giants listened to Scripture being read aloud in the temple and church gatherings, in the days before it was readily available at every turn; on our cell phones, in our desk drawers, on our bookshelves, etc. They simply listened with such intentionality and focus that it transformed their lives and ultimately our world. God has truly designed us with the capability of listening with extraordinary depth and power, yet it seems that we hardly access this potential.
How we listen to one another can inform us of how we are listening to God. How am I listening to Shawna? How am I listening to those around me? Or am I just waiting for my chance to speak? There is a direct correlation between those answers and how I am listening to God.
When I really listen, I don’t only hear what is being said, but who is saying it and how and why it is being said. It brings me closer to that person and strengthens the bond I have with them; whether that be with God, Shawna, our neighbors, or our "enemies." It is impossible truly love without truly listening.
Those who consider themselves religious and yet do not keep a tight rein on their tongues deceive themselves, and their religion is worthless.
– James 1.26
So, it is with absolute reverence and sincerity that I plead: Shut up and listen, for Christ's sake.