31 Days: Listening – the gift of paying attention

Spider OrchidHave you ever noticed how it feels to have someone listen to you? I mean really listen. It doesn’t really happen all that often, especially in this crazy busy world of distractions. But when someone gives you their full attention, and just listens, that’s a precious moment.

When someone is genuinely interested in you and what you have to say, their attention says that you matter. You have value.

I need to know that I matter, that I have value. So do you. So do we all.

It’s hard to listen really well. To listen without jumping to conclusions or to judgement. To get past the feeling that listening isn’t enough, that I need to share my own anecdote to show that I understand, that I need to provide a solution a friend’s problem, that I should have some useful advice. That I somehow need to fix things, as if they need me to rescue them, as if I’m not already broken myself.

But what if I listened to someone in order to learn? From them. About them. What if I listened – to know them?

How would that change the way I listen?

Would it free me from shouldering a responsibility that is not mine? Would it free me from waiting for ‘my turn’? Would it free me from trying to impress with my own insight or humour? Would it free me to really pay attention and seek to understand a person. Would it allow me to really see them for who they are? To be with them? To love them and care about them?

I think it just might.

31 Days to Listen

This is Day 23 of the series 31 Days to Listen. Visit Write 31 Days to see how other writers are contributing to this challenge.

31 Days: The Gift of Listening

Gold Rush A number of years ago, I asked God a question. A question followed by a declaration. A challenge even.

Lord is this all there is? Is this all I’m ever going to experience of you? Because if this is all there is, it’s not enough.

I was hungry. I didn’t fully realise it at the time, but I was hungry for more of God.

I’d been a Christian all my life, but I felt that there had to be more than what I’d experienced. That was a particular turning point for me, because it opened a way for God to show me that there was so much more to having a relationship with him than I could possibly imagine. He’s been continually answering that question with more of himself. And I’m still just beginning to discover the depth and richness of relationship that He offers.

Knowing that if I’m willing to listen, He’s willing to speak, has been one of those precious discoveries.

One of the ways I do that is to write my questions in a journal and wait for his answers. It’s not a ‘prayer list’ so much as a conversation. I write because it’s helps me to concentrate, and so I can come back and see what God was doing, what he was saying in particular seasons of my life. It’s good to see what I was learning, and to see what I’m still learning. It helps to see the threads he’s weaving together into the fabric of my life.

A simple question I often ask is, “Lord, what do you want me to know right now?”

That’s the kind of question that allows Him to set the agenda, to steer the direction of our conversation. There have been times (many, many times over the years) when I’ve been afraid to make room to listen. I’ve been afraid of what I might hear, what he might say, what he might ask of me. But I’ve discovered that most often he wants to tell me how I’m loved, to encourage me, to lead me forward.

I’m discovering what a precious gift it is to listen to God, to know him and to be known.

31 Days to Listen

This is Day 22 of the series 31 Days to Listen.

If I don’t have love I am only a clanging cymbal

I think I sounded suspiciously like a clanging cymbal recently. Someone came to me with a question. It seemed a simple issue and I responded to it in a fairly direct manner. Frankly, I was less patient and kind than I might have been. Unfortunately, although I’d answered her question, she went away feeling like she’d been told off. My clanging cymbal was reverberating in her ears.

I could see that she was flustered because the situation was outside of her normal experience, but I discounted it because I didn’t think the issue was significant. By doing that I actually made the issue more important than the person. She needed understanding and reassurance, not just information. In that moment I didn’t treat her with love.

And if I didn’t love her – didn’t really see her, understand her, respond to her need and not just her question – it doesn’t matter how good my answer was, I might as well have saved my breath.

If I’d acknowledged how she was feeling first, then we might have had a more productive conversation, and she might have gone away feeling helped rather than hurt. So the next time I find myself in a similar situation I want to pay attention to the person, and respond with love.

 1 If I speak in human or angelic tongues, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. 2 If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. 3 If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing.

4 Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. 5 It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. 6 Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. 7 It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. (1 Corinthians 13:1-7 TNIV)

Have you ever been a clanging cymbal? What would you do differently in the future?

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