As the father of a three-year-old and a five-year-old, I spend significant time each day helping my kids learn to listen. Their ears work just fine. I could whisper something from the other side of the house and they will hear and repeat it. When it is time to clean up the toys, however, I could shout the instructions through a mega-phone and they would be oblivious to the fact that I had said a word. Hearing comes naturally, listening is a skill.
20My child, pay attention to what I say.
Listen carefully to my words.
21Don’t lose sight of them.
Let them penetrate deep into your heart,
22for they bring life to those who find them,
and healing to their whole body.
I want to be a person who listens well. God is certainly still speaking and I don’t want to miss what he’s saying. So how might I hone this skill?
One of the ways I am learning to listen is to let scripture read me. This is different than Bible study or exegesis or mining the text for nuance and meaning. I do that too, but my daily practice of listening is different. I simply read through the text and look for words or phrases that stand out. Sometimes it is a single word and the thoughts or feelings it stirs in me. Sometimes it is a verse or several verses. Whatever it is, I try to ask questions about why this stood out to me. Why does it grab my attention? Why does it stir in me what it does? Finally, is there some kind of response, no matter how simple or involved, that might be appropriate? This is actually how I go about writing these reflections each day. Here’s the process simplified. Read the scripture and ask these questions: 1) What? 2) So what? 3) Now what?
God is speaking? Are you practicing the skill of listening?