Learning to Listen
"I will listen to what God the Lord says. For he will make peace with his people, his faithful followers."
-Psalm 85:8 (NET)
"Listen" is my word for Lent. I took a picture of a sign to help me remember. It's on my phone's lock screen now.
I put it on my phone because I forget to listen. And when I forget to listen, I typically check my phone for some niblet of distraction.
Actually, that's not accurate.
It's not that I forget to listen. I don't plan to listen. That's why I had to take it on as a Lenten exercise. I usually plan to be distracted by headlines, notifications, and entertainments. And my preferred technologies keep my distractions at hand—literally in hand—and habitual. No guilt trip here. You're likely reading this on a device: a smartphone or tablet.
But let's hold this thought in mind (again, and again, and again, without guilt, shame, or fear). Less distracting chatter and more Word of God means increased peace, established trust, and steady joy.
If we can hold that idea in mind, and trust what it says about the Word of God, and desire the fruit of that Word in our spirits, then we are ready to learn to listen. In this respect, listening to the Word of God is a spiritual exercise (or, if you prefer, an inward effort). And it must be an important one because Jesus says, "The one who has ears had better listen!" (Matthew 11:15, NET). A NET Bible note clarifies, "This was Jesus' common expression to listen and heed carefully (cf. Matt 13:9, 43; Mark 4:9, 23; Luke 8:8, 14:35)."
Jesus also says, "So listen carefully, for whoever has will be given more, but whoever does not have, even what he thinks he has will be taken from him” (Luke 8:18, NET). This isn't judgy religion. This is sound practice. Imagine, here, Jesus delivering a TED talk. Or, better yet, this is like investment advice from someone greater than Warren Buffet. Like any skill, listening takes desire and dedication. Listening takes time to learn, re-learn, and refine. It takes daily practice and dogged persistence. And the return on investment is peace, joy, and a life increasingly governed by agape love. It's time for me listen carefully to the Word of God spoken by the Word made flesh, Jesus of Nazareth. This is especially so in our present season of distress. I suggest the same is true for you, too.