The Art of Listening . . . to Others and God
Last week a workman was explaining a new carbon monoxide detector to me. When I said, “I don’t know where there’s another outlet,” he said, “You’re not listening. I said it doesn’t need one.” This made me wonder how many other times I wasn’t listening and what I was missing because of it. Usually when I’m listening with only one ear it’s because I’m planning the next thing I’m going to say. I don’t like it when people don’t listen when I’m speaking. Did you ever have the experience of having someone walk away while you were talking to them? Or looking around the room to see who else was there instead of giving you their undivided attention? Or did you ever make a comment that was ignored and then someone else says it and gets the credit? Not listening to someone sends the message that you don’t consider what they say important, and worse, you don’t consider that person important. Listening has to be one of the best ways to show love.
Prayer, which is conversation with God, requires not only talking to God but listening to him. During Advent, which is fast approaching, we focus on Mary, who is called the Listening Virgin. She was attuned to God’s voice and heeded his words. When I teach prayer, I have children stand holding up cards with the letters L-I-S-T-E-N and then ask them to rearrange themselves to spell a new word. That word is SILENT. To hear God’s voice, quiet is essential, not only in our surroundings but in our minds. When the cell phones, radios, and televisions are off, when the thoughts buzzing through our brains are silenced, we have a better chance of hearing God.
So how does God speak? He uses creation like a megaphone to tell us about himself. Through mountains and oceans God speaks of his power and majesty. Through roses and butterflies he tells of his beauty and gentleness. Through everything in the universe God declares, “You are precious and I love you.” God also speaks to us personally through his Word in the Bible, which St. Benedict counsels we should read with the ear of our heart. God speaks too through other people and whispers to us in the depths of our hearts. After hearing God, like Mary we ought to ponder what he said.
Through what channel has God spoken to you? What did he say?
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