From The Garden Bench - Listening
words by David Hollows
In his novel, ‘Now and then’, Frederick Buechner wrote the following:
‘If I were called upon to state in a few words the essence of everything ..... it would be something like this: Listen to your life.
See it for the fathomless mystery it is. In the boredom and pain of it no less than in the excitement and gladness: touch, taste, smell your way to the holy and hidden heart of it because in the last analysis all moments are key moments and life itself is grace.’
In his novel, ‘Soul Survivor’ Philip Yancey made the following statement:
‘I moved to Colorado to explore the ordinary life that lies hidden inside each one of us. Amid the tedium and pain there lies mystery and grace to be mined. I wanted to find my own voice, to peer inside rather than out, and to do so I needed a more nurturing environment, a place of quietness and solitude.
After eight years, I am just now learning to listen.’
Photo by Eran Menashri via Unsplash
Are you a good listener?
How good is your ability to listen?
Are you able to listen when you are doing something else?
Do you listen intently? Hence the reason why you become the person others come to in order to have someone listen to their issues.
Do you casually listen to others?
Have you been accused of having selective hearing and only wanting you hear what you choose to do so?
It is a biological fact that boys listen best when they are fiddling with something in their hands; they might not seem to be listening and appear to be distracted but they are able to recall what they have heard.
In schools children are taught the art of listening; how to recall information as part of the memory process and select the relevant details for future use.
Your ability to listen may well be determined by the amount of hearing you have: we know that as we grow older the amount we hear often diminishes for some hence the need for hearing assistance. For those with hearing assistance, background noise is a massive distraction when listening to others.
We know that for others, the ability to hear has been an issue for many years and often from a young age.
In certain instances people are trained to listen. For example, to become a volunteer for the Samaritans, there is a rigorous training course.
Many years ago the Methodist Church recruited volunteer listeners as part of a scheme to support those in the ministry.
Also, as part of the training to become a good listener, body language, facial expression and positive and appropriate verbal acknowledgements are a key component in the development of listening as a skill.
How many times have you heard the cry; no-one listens to me!
Photo by Free to Use Sounds via Unsplash
During the Covid-19 lockdown as the noise of the traffic reduced and aeroplanes stopped flying, it was interesting how silence became the distinct noise for many of us and to listen to the birds sing was almost magical.
Little wonder, we have the phrase; the art of listening.
In the Bible there are many stories of listening which has positive or negative outcomes for the characters involved.
In one of the very first stories Adam and Eve listened to the wrong voice and their life was turned upside down (Genesis chapter 3)
Saul, the King in the Old Testament, was good at listening to the voices of others such as the prophet Samuel, but then he listened to his own voice, made wrong decisions and the outcomes were very negative: he made a sacrifice to God when this was not permitted and he consulted with a medium which was also not allowed (1 Samuel chapters 13, 15 and 28)
In order to ensure that the Israelites listened to Him, God chose several prophets to give messages to His people: Jeremiah, Isaiah, Ezekiel, Micah and others. Some were successful and God’s messages had an impact whereas other prophets were rejected and ignored.
Thankfully, there are many examples of people who heard God speak and acted upon what they had heard.
Samuel as a young boy heard God speak to him three times and then responded (1 Samuel chapter 3).
Mary listened to the angel Gabriel whose news was awesome (Luke chapter 1) God also used angels to speak with others: Gideon and his call to defeat an invading army (Judges chapter 5) Joseph and the shepherds in the Nativity narrative (Matthew chapter 1 and Luke chapter 2) Philip, the disciple, is directed by an angel to speak with an official from Ethiopia (Acts chapter 8) and Cornelius is instructed by an angel to send for Peter in order that Peter may lead Cornelius and his family in the next stage of their faith journey (Acts chapter 10).
When people listened to Jesus, often their lives were changed because of what they heard: Zacchaeus (Luke chapter 19) and the disciples (Matthew chapter 4) There are also times when God himself speaks directly to people. The voice of God is heard at the baptism of Jesus as confirmation of the identity of Jesus (Mark chapter 1) God confirms the identity of Jesus a second time to Peter, James and John on the mountain (Matthew chapter 17) When God speaks with Moses, He does so in the form of a burning bush (Exodus chapter 3).
In Psalm 46 we have an invitation from God: Be still and know that I am God God knows that we need to be still in order to listen to Him. This stillness does not necessarily mean that we have to motionless in order to hear Him rather that we have to learn how to recognise God’s voice amongst all the many other voices we hear. To do this, we have to spend time regularly with God away from the busyness of our lives, to set aside quality time to spend with Him.
If we are to know God and have a deep relationship with Him then we have to listen for His voice, recognise when He speaks and respond.
Do you hear God speak to you?
Do you listen for His voice?
You may find the following hymn useful:
Master speak (Mission Praise 459)
You may find the following prayer helpful:
Almighty God, who called Abraham to leave his land, we too hear your call to sacrifice our lives to you. Gracious God, who called fishermen and tax collectors to leave their daily routines, we too hear the call to follow you. Loving God, who walked a road to wood and nails, we too hear the call to deny ourselves and serve you. Inviting God, who call us to sit and listen to you in the quietness of our days, grant us through the power of your Holy Spirit, that we may respond and hear your voice. In the name of Jesus, we pray.
Photo by Eva Schaap via Unsplash
God bless you