Are you listening actively?

My wife and I are in a small group. For those of you unfamiliar, it’s a group of people, normally no larger than 12-16 persons, that come together regularly in selfless community to share and grow each other’s faith. It is not always easy, as accountability plays a part, and beyond this, we are completely open and honest about everything–ideas that are quite foreign in today’s culture. The idea is that Jesus modeled this behavior while He walked on the earth, and since we are trying to be like Him, we should, well, act like
Him.

In our weekly meetings we talk about everything openly; some things are “one offs” and others are recurring issues. One that comes up a lot is conversation with God. Specifically,
hearing
what God is saying to us.

But that may be the problem in itself, because
hearing
is very much different from
listening.
Right now, for instance, I hear the truck that’s going by, the clicking of the keyboard, the hum of the external hard drive and the fan on the PS3 in the other room, but I am absolutely not listening to any of them, and furthermore, I am definitely not actively listening to any of them.

Active listening is full sensory involvement. It’s complete attention. It involves awareness that transcends the physical, and permeates deep into your heart, your mind, your soul.

It is crushingly selfless.

When you listen actively, you stop doing whatever else you are doing and actually pay attention to what is being said. Or shown. Or taught. Or exemplified for YOU. Our Human Nature causes us to constantly put ourselves first, to make SELF bigger than everything and anything else in our minds. As a result of this, we stop listening, and start hearing. Think about it, you can read faster than most people speak, and your brain processes faster than either of these actions: The average person speaks at around 200 words per minute, and reads at around 300 words per minute, but the average brain processes at over 400 words per minute, and this is where our problems begin. Our brain fills the gap, or worse our ego fills the gap that our brain affords us.

What happens when you you are in conversation? What happens when someone speaks to you when you are doing something else? What does it take to make you stop and pay attention? Would you even notice right now if you were being shown something that God meant to push you in a particular direction?

I believe God uses many tools to gain our attention. I believe that scripture is his ever speaking voice, and in The Pursuit of God A.W. Tozer clarifies this idea:

…God is forever seeking to speak Himself out to His creation. The whole Bible supports this idea. God is speaking. Not God spoke, but God is speaking. He is, by His very nature, continuously articulate. He fills the world with His speaking voice. One of the great realities with which we have to deal is the voice of God in His world.
…the expression of the will of God is the breath of God filling the world with living potentiality. The voice of God is the most powerful force in nature, indeed the only force in nature, for all energy is here only because the power-filled Word is being spoken.

It’s pretty obvious, then, that God is never quiet. We need to learn to stop placing Him in with the cacophony of the world’s sounds that we only “hear”. We need to learn to

actively listen

to what God is saying. And this will require us to undo so much of what we “know”, and so much of how we “live”. We have to open ourselves to that which me may not want, to that which we need and to notice the signs, however mundane or exciting or dangerous, when God places them in front of us. This is a lesson that I can’t stop learning from, and I truly believe we all need to be reminded of regardless of where we are on the faith journey. What’s the further implication of this?

God teaches us to be like Him (Lev 11:44-45; 19:2; 20:7; 1Peter 1:16), and in so doing we are completely selfless, which leads us all to love one another (1Peter 1:22; 1 Corinthians 13:1-13) and be the people that He wants us to be (Philippians 2:13-15), but we have to actively listen to His plan for us in order for any of that to come to fruition.

I plan to expand on this through scripture made relevant to today in my coming posts. I hope you will join me as I embark on this road, and that together we can learn that actively listening to God is something that we can’t stop

One response

  1. Carla

    Ouch – Okay, so I needed to read this today. Because I’ve been trying to hear what God is saying, but really there’s just too much static. Noise from my life is interfering. And honestly, I know the answer I want to hear, so I’m not really actively engaging in listening. I just want God to say, yeah, do it your way.

    I’m struck with the idea that active listening takes humility. It takes the admission that you don’t know it all and that you must be silent and wait on God (Psalm 62:1). It takes the opposite of what I want to be today. But it’s exactly what I need to be.

    August 19, 2011 at 12:17 pm

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