Jesus called the crowd to him and said, “Listen and understand.” Matthew 15:10
Recently I was with my daughter-in-law, Ali, at her neighborhood park. The young cousins were together playing happily. A friendly neighbor with his granddaughter joined us. He added another pair of eyes and hands as we all occasionally pushed a swing, herded the little ones away from dangerous choices, and chatted amongst ourselves. After he left, Ali stated that she had finally figured out why she liked this man so much. “He is an excellent communicator,” were her words to me.
Heart to heart communication requires speaking and listening. Active listening is an acquired skill for effective interaction with one another. Scripture has much to say about listening, probably, because it‘s just plain difficult. It requires focus and our full attention as we observe body language, facial expressions, hear the tone and process the words being spoken in order to fully understand the message being conveyed.
Have you ever looked straight at someone speaking, didn’t interrupt, and let them finish their thought only to realize you had no earthly idea what was said? It’s likely you checked out mentally so nothing registered! Often our minds run ahead as we attempt to listen. We are busy forming our own reply and never comprehend what is being told. Interrupting is another frustrating problem caused by inadequate listening skills. Perhaps you don’t personally respect the one speaking, so you tune out their many words. We can also carry around past hurts that have caused us to be especially defensive. We don’t hear the truth of the message because the words are filtered through our own wall of pain and brokenness. Perhaps a busy agenda keeps you preoccupied and active listening is an unnecessary distraction for you!
One of my daddy’s quotes to us children growing up was, “Children should be seen and not heard.” Those words may have helped to keep us five children in line, but the message was erroneous in its wisdom. My impressionable mind received the message that I was unworthy and unloved. You see, we were created with a deep need to be understood, validated, respected, seen and heard. Two way loving communication is a requirement for all healthy relationships.
God’s word gives us clear instruction about listening. In James we are told to be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry. Proverbs says that answering before listening is folly, and that fools find no pleasure in understanding but delight in airing their own opinions. The Bible says that the wise listen to advice and those who don’t will suffer consequences for their folly.
We, who attempt to communicate with one another, are all imperfect. In order for others to receive our love, we must practice speaking less and listening more with the intent to understand. This quote by Paul Tillich is powerful: “The first duty of love is to listen.”
God, our perfect parent, makes it clear throughout His Word that He sees, hears, listens and understands. It is evident that a two way relationship and clear communication is His desire. Jesus’ words to the world are, “Here I am: I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with that person, and they with me.” Revelation 3:20. Eating with another invites intimacy! We are reconciled to God through Christ. His love accomplished for us what we could never do on our own. In Christ alone we are deemed worthy and can bask in the Father’s perfect love for us.
Do you struggle to listen? Do you hear but fail to understand? Do you feel unheard and misunderstood? Find and meditate on scriptures about speaking and listening. If listening is a difficult skill for you to master, ask The Master to help you hone those skills. Remember, “I love the Lord, for he heard my voice; he heard my cry for mercy. Because he turned his ear to me, I will call on him as long as I live.” Psalm 116:1-2.
Heavenly Father, Your Word has clearly communicated love for us in this broken world. You are gentle and humble in heart and call us into Your presence through Jesus. You speak Truth, hear us when we call and listen patiently. In You, we know we are fully seen, heard and understood. So often our communication with others is blocked by many obstacles. Teach us as we attempt to listen and understand one another. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.
Enjoy this song by Casting Crowns “Listen to Our Hearts”.