In this week’s edition of our weekly Wednesday newsletter, Scott considers how, in a culture of talking, we might work to become better listeners.
Dear friends in Christ,
I’ve been thinking about listening lately. It’s not something we as a culture do well. When I was a parish priest, I sometimes struggled with this myself. A person would stop by to chat about a pastoral issue, and I was always tempted to jump right into problem-solving mode. But mostly what I needed to do was listen. I think I got better at this, but it took work. And I still need to work on this.
We don’t have many examples. News programs are filled with people who shout over each other. Regular television shows have carefully scripted and always-witty conversations. There’s not much listening there, and never silence. Talking with someone is entirely different when we open ourselves up to listen, as opposed to thinking of the next thing we’ll say when our conversation partner is still talking.
And then there’s God. I notice that across the ideological spectrum, we love to declare what God thinks. We read the Bible looking for scriptures that agree with our pre-conceived ideas. We pray readily for affirmation of what we hope will happen, but perhaps less readily for God’s wisdom about what to do. In other words, our conversations with God, in my observation, are too often lopsided. We do the talking, and God does the listening.
When I manage to listen – really, to listen – whether it’s to God or to another person, I find it illuminating and often transformational. This is especially true when I manage to set aside my agenda to make room for God’s agenda. I’m still working on getting better at this, and I hope you’ll do the same. If you’re a person for whom listening comes naturally, encourage those around you and model your well-formed habit for others to see.
I wonder how different our church and our world would be if we listened more attentively for the still, small voice of God.