"Let him who has ears, hear." That's how Jesus says it my translation of the Bible. But another author captures the essence of it well in his transliteration called "The Message". After a parable, or a talk, Jesus would summarize by saying this: "Are you listening? Really listening?"
It's a good word, and it makes sense that Jesus would say it, because the testimony of the ages, and of many moments of our own hearts, is that we're not listening. We're too busy talking, or competing, or comparing, or ignoring, to listen.
Our fractured hearts are often on the run, trying hard to find some kind of success so that we can convince both ourselves and others that we're worthy of love. And all this trying has the effect of tuning out the one Voice that, if we were to hear it, might just assure us that everything's going to be fine, that we're deeply love and utterly accepted regardless of whether we succeed or fail at our grand plans. If this is true, maybe we can relax a little bit, let go of the plans, and content ourselves with doing just exactly what God asks of us - big or small, anonymous or with notoriety.
But we'll never get to that point without the assurance that we're deeply loved just as we are, and we'll never really come to believe the reality that we're love, at least not at any depth beyond our minds, unless we learn how to listen for God's voice. If you're interested, here are some practical steps:
1. Read the Bible aloud, slowly, a short passage. Read it again. Ask God to speak to you through what you've read. Meditate on it. Enter into it. Listen. Read it again, slower even, if needed. You need to listen. Mark what God has shown you, either in your journal or in a simple prayer of thanks to God.
2. Listen to creation. I was just sitting in the back yard this evening as the sun was disappearing behind our neighbors house to the northwest of us. As I listened, I could easily here a drummer practicing for marching band, a car horn (several), the general noise of a street nearby, and some airplanes. Ah, but there's more. Quieter, less intrusive, were the birds. Several species have found their way to our neighborhood over the past years, as our collective efforts to reforest the flats between the ridge and the lake here in my Seattle neighborhood are coming to fruition. I'm not a birder, so can't give you names - but their sounds are stunning. I noticed them earlier today, as I used part of my day off to ride my bike around Seattle. You could hear plenty of humanity, but every once in a while you could also hear the birds. Mmmm. They remind us of so much that is hopeful, healing, and good.
Listening demands focused attention, and focused attention demands that our attention be diverted from whatever it was that previously occupied us. There's the crux of the problem. I'm not sure we really believe that turning away from our ambitions, comparisons, and competitions, will yield anything of value. And in all the world of opinions and ideas, I don't know if we could be much more wrong about anything.
Are we listening? Really listening?