Listening is hard. Jesus once said: “Consider carefully how you LISTEN” (Luke 8:18).
Over and again, Jesus suggests that it is not enough to have ears; you must have “ears to hear.” Implicit in this is the frank assertion that – at least a lot of the time – when we appear to be listening to somebody, we are not. We seem to be engaged, but we actually are somewhere else.
For most of us, it’s a struggle to maintain eye contact much less a mind-meld with other people. Because our brains move a lot faster than the tongue, our minds often free-associate when others are talking. We spring from one fleeting thought to another. If the person talking only knew what was going on behind those glazed-over eyes!
I find the same effort is required when it comes to paying attention to God.
Here’s what works most often for me—
- I tend to do best either early in the morning or late at night in the quiet.
- Scripture is a faithful teacher — whether a single verse or a particular story.
- Nature often provides the ambiance I need to hear God’s promptings.
- Stillness seems to be my best teacher–when I can put all my senses on alert, when I have stopped long enough to really listen with full attention.
When our kids were little, Cindy and I did a few things well—and each son, though different, has become an adult we can be proud of. We’re thankful. But if I could go back and change one thing, I would have—
- modeled the practice of stillness—how to pay attention to God.
- settled down long enough to talk about how the day had gone and what was up with them. I would have said more often, “Let’s be still for a moment. Whatever it is…and thank God for whatever has happened today. Let’s listen together.”
Little children can do that. They can be quiet. Not for long, but they can be still for a moment. And become aware.
I would have gone for a hike in the woods or sat out in the yard with them and said, “The trees, nature, they’re always doing the will of the Father. Let’s go and see the will of the Father. Let’s see what that teaches us.”
This would not have been hard at all.
Anyway, there’s still time for them, for their kids, for me, for us all to consider more carefully how we listen to one another and to God.
Question: What helps you pay more attention? What has been your experience for these kinds of faith-filled conversations, whether in your own childhood, or with your own children?