Are you really listening?

For many years I led a small group of sixth-grade girls, and we often talked about issues going on in their middle-school lives. One day one of the girls was telling a story in great detail about a misunderstanding with her teacher. I asked what her mom thought about the situation. I was shocked to find that this girl had not discussed what was going on with either her mom or dad. I was intrigued. Of the five girls in the room, all agreed that they don’t tell their parents most of what is really going on in their hearts and minds. Panic rose inside me because at the time I had twin fifth-grade girls. Will they stop talking to me next year? When I went home I sat down with my daughters to inquire about my own listening skills, I wasn’t prepared for their responses as they had some similar feelings. Though I had to admit that I had a lot on my mind most of the time, I didn’t want my girls to stop talking to me and find other ears willing to listen. I didn’t want to discover I’d lost the opportunity because I didn’t take the time to listen. I began to wonder: if my listening skills aren’t the greatest with my own children, who are physically present and asking for my attention, how much easier is it for me to struggle with listening to my Creator God? This is a question we all need to ask. Are we really listening? 

In the Book of Jeremiah there is a theme that is repeated again and again, and this repetition tells us that God wants to be sure we don’t miss it either: God wants His people to open their ears and listen to Him. Throughout the book we see that God calls His people to listen, and no one is exempt from this call to hear God. In Jeremiah’s time, the people failed to listen, and God got their attention by allowing them to be taken captive.  

The opposite of closed ears is open ears. So what does it mean to have ears that are open to God? It means to listen, respond, cooperate, maintain focus, and prove with your actions that you have heard what God is saying. Would those closest to you describe you as quick to listen, responsive, cooperative, focused, and consistently living a life that reflects the faith you claim? If we’re honest, we must admit that we, too, struggle with closed spiritual ears. Despite the gifts of God’s living Word, His Spirit, His body of believers (the church), and the life of His beloved Son, we often find ourselves distracted and stubborn like the peers of Jeremiah.  More than ever, we need intentionality in spiritual disciplines so that we don’t miss hearing God’s still small voice in a fast-paced world. 

Two short passages in the New Testament say so succinctly what Jeremiah tried in desperation to communicate, showing us that the concept of spiritual ears has not changed with the new covenant; Shama is still God’s desire for us: Then he added, “Pay close attention to what you hear. The closer you listen, the more understanding you will be given—and you will receive even more. To those who listen to my teaching, more understanding will be given. But for those who are not listening, even what little understanding they have will be taken away from them.” (Mark 4:24-25) Be careful that you do not refuse to listen to the One who is speaking. For if the people of Israel did not escape when they refused to listen to Moses, the earthly messenger, we will certainly not escape if we reject the One who speaks to us from heaven! When God spoke from Mount Sinai his voice shook the earth, but now he makes another promise: “Once again I will shake not only the earth but the heavens also.” This means that all of creation will be shaken and removed, so that only unshakable things will remain. (Hebrews 12:25-27). 

We may not have a prophet proclaiming God’s message to us in the street, but God is still calling us to listen to His message. I pray that we will not be so distracted by the minutia of daily life that we fail to hear. So let me ask you: How are your listening skills? How open are you to what God is saying to you? 

This post was taken from Dare to Hope: Living Intentionally in an Unstable World. It will hit the shelves March 5th but you can preorder here

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