As a mom I find myself saying this often to my kids: “Put your listening ears on!” I feel like, at times, I’m saying all these things to my wonderful children and they are not hearing any of it (or, at least their actions prove that they didn’t hear a word I said). That is very frustrating. Feeling that frustration has taught me to be a better listener because I certainly don’t want others feeling that same frustration toward me! Listening is a gift and one that we all should probably use more often!
I’m reminded of that often in both ministry and in my personal life. Just today I had a chance to really listen to someone who needed an ear – I mean really listen. That meant not to offer unsolicited advice, but rather to just hear what they had to say, nod, and offer understanding and support. I had an opinion, of course, but I only offered it when asked. Very hard to do, isn’t it? I find that to be difficult in many instances when listening to others talk, complain, worry aloud, etc. I ALWAYS have an opinion (don’t we all?!), but I’ve learned that my opinion is not always wanted or needed. But, my patience and ear are always appreciated.
Listening has also given me wisdom over the years. I appreciate very much those biblical figures who took time to simply listen, both to God and to those around them. I respect Paul quite a bit as he tackled the nuances of early church development and all of the “drama” that ensues when you gather many together from differing areas of life. I can only imagine the “meetings” he had with church goers who would bend his ear to their complaints about “so and so” or their opinions about where the church should go. But, he was amazing in the way he listened, prayed, then moved forward in the right direction. He spoke nothing but truth as he directed that early church.
I, too, have tried to glean that wisdom as I meet new people and try to navigate a new church appointment. I’ve heard how we “used” to do things, how the staff handled this or that, and differing opinions about all sorts of things. My pastor gave me great advice as she encouraged me to listen with love and redirect toward the future – and that I have tried to do at every turn. I’ve also realized that most of what I hear has very little to do with the person that is being discussed as it does with the person doing the discussing – it is an issue within them so listening and loving are the two best things I can do for them.
I find such wisdom in Proverbs:
Proverbs 19:20 (Common English Bible (CEB)) 20 Listen to advice and accept instruction, so you might grow wise in the future.
Wow, I love that, although keeping in mind as to whose advice I’m listening to! One thing I’ve done, which has been so helpful to my listening and discerning skills, has been to pray over things before I speak (when I am able). I take at least one night to pray over and sleep on something that is troubling me or something that I need to give my opinion on. I want God to guide my words and not me. That is hard to do when my own will tends to intervene. But, I have always found that when I let God guide my words, the words have such a positive impact on others. It’s not me, it’s God, and that’s how it should be!
So, dear friends, remember why the good Lord gave you ears and use them with wisdom! And, if you find yourself talking more than listening, go to God for the wisdom to “turn on your listening ears” and give your talking-mouth a day off :).