The Gift of Listening

In the grocery store line, I had to wait. I noticed a four year old boy ahead of me, and glancing back at him, I saw his gaze was stoic and unrelenting. What was he thinking? I smiled, and there no smile in return. Then I mimicked his hands. He shifted the position of his hands, and I did, too, following his lead. Still he had the stoic stare. After several changes, I saw a glint in his eyes, just as his Dad was ready to go. He turned to go, but turned once more to look at me.

Now I will wonder, what did he ‘hear’ in that exchange? Each time we meet someone, whether we know them or not, we are in the act of listening. Language should be no barrier when we listen with our hearts. Body language accompanying speech speaks loud and clear. This can cause misunderstandings.

“I know that you believe you understand what you think I said, but I’m not sure you realize that what you heard is not what I meant.” – Robert McCloskey

In today’s world we communicate in sound bites with no depth. Is this to protect our hearts from investing in someone else’s life? As I click ‘Like’ on Facebook, was that really listening? What is the long range result of this type of split second communication?

When a Mother and her child communicate, do they hear each other? Listening can become an emotional roller-coaster ride as they both fight for ‘turf’ as the teens approach. Listening requires emotional and spiritual maturity.

When ’because I said so’ is not enough, then communication needs a thoughtful approach. Using a mental ‘other’s point of view’ can clarify how to communicate with someone. Walking in another’s shoes, slides, pumps, sports shoes or boots is the way to clarify how the words are interpreted.

The first duty of love is to listen.” – Paul Tillich

Once I spent a long evening in a school bus, listening to a harangue of a co-worker. My ears felt beaten and my spirit was crushed. Then I asked myself how many times have I inflicted on others a barrage of words and emotions and they looked for an escape. It is amazing how we can learn much by listening.

Long ago I learned the term, ‘active listening’. This doesn’t include the activity of planning one’s response to what you are hearing. It is asking questions of what you are hearing. It is discerning truth and how it applies to you.

How many listen in the classroom and quickly dismiss what is being said as not concerning them. Not only in the classroom does this happen. One way of not impaired listening, is to carry on a conversation with whom you are sitting with while a guest speaker holds forth.

Report Card Time was always a capitalized happening for me. A formal way of evaluating my effort in learning for a period of time is that report card. When I began teaching, I learned that Report Card Time is the evidence of testing and unwritten subjective values. I always felt that a child’s grade was really my evaluation of the ability to teach.

One day I brought home an “F” in Math. I knew I was in for it. I could expect at least a spanking and lots of ‘yelling’. There would be some one-sided listening on my part when I handed my report card to my Dad. That was the day that Dad communicated with his heart and I listened with my heart. Tears poured down his cheeks. And he looked at me with such a disappointment. He communicated and I listened. When I sat in the math classroom and the number of problems on the paper could circle the earth twice, I remembered the disappointment and the forgiveness he extended. My grades came up the next quarter.

My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, because human anger does not produce the righteousness that God desires. James 1:19-20

Learning to listen to our parents teaches us to listen to God our Father. James goes on to say in 1:22-25:

Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says. Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like someone who looks at his face in a mirror and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like. But whoever looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues in it—not forgetting what they have heard, but doing it—they will be blessed in what they do.

We are to listen to truth. In this day and age, how do we know truth? We search for truth, even as Job did.

In Job 37-40, God questions Job. And when I read this Scripture, my world again becomes one of faith and trust in the God Almighty. My questions are answered. Even as Job says, “I know that you can do all things; no purpose of yours can be thwarted. 
3 You asked, ‘Who is this that obscures my plans without knowledge?’ 
Surely I spoke of things I did not understand, things too wonderful for me to know.” Job 42:2-3.

One praise hymn comes to mind:

Friend of God

Who am I that You are mindful of me? That You hear me when I call.

Is it true that You are thinking of me? How You love me it’s amazing.

“Be still and know that I am God….” Psalm 46:10

Dear Lord, Give me a pure, child-like heart that listens only to you!

Comments? eacombs@cox.net