Posted by: ritagone | March 12, 2014

The Art of Listening


One of my favorite authors, Henri Nouwen, wrote in “Making All Things New”: “From all that I said about our worried, overfilled lives, it is clear that we are usually surrounded by so much outer noise that it is hard to truly hear our God when he is speaking to us.  We have often become deaf, unable to know when God calls us and unable to understand in which direction he calls us.

Thus our lives have become absurd.  In the word absurd we find the Latin word surdus, which means ‘deaf.’ A spiritual life requires discipline because we need to learn to listen to God, who constantly speaks but whom we seldom hear.

When, however, we learn to listen, our lives become obedient lives.  The word obedient comes from the Latin word audire, which means ‘listening.’  A spiritual discipline is necessary in order to move slowly from an absurd to an obedient life, from a life filled with noisy worries to a life in which there is some free inner space where we can listen to our God and follow his guidance.

Jesus’ life was a life of obedience.  He was always listening to the Father, always attentive to his voice, always alert for his directions.  Jesus was ‘all ear.’  That is true prayer: being all ear for God.  The core of all prayer is indeed listening, obediently standing in the presence of God.”

Jesus was “all ear.”  Sometimes I think I’m “all mouth.”  Reading Nouwen, I wonder if I should just keep my trap shut most of the time instead of spouting off like I usually do.  Do I really need to be asserting my opinion on anything and everything under the sun?  Why?  What need does that assertion fulfill in me that it gushes up from my inner being so that I can’t even stifle it when I want to out of sheer habit?

As noisy as Nouwen thought his life and times were, imagine how much more ours are, surrounded by the media, by our smartphones, by the constant bombardment of input and information and everything that is supposed to make us savvy and instead makes us quite surdus, deaf.

Maybe the reason I don’t get along with God as much as I’d like to is because I don’t listen to Him enough.  I allow so much noise to surround me that God can’t get through when He wants to tell me something.  No wonder if He sometimes just “hangs up.”  Or just doesn’t bother to call for a few days.  He knows that I most likely won’t miss Him anyway.

Shame on me.

I don’t want to live an absurd life.  I don’t want to be deaf to God’s still small voice – or His shout — in my ear.  And I certainly don’t want Him to feel that He isn’t welcome to come and speak to me at any time, day or night.

I want to be listening.

Like Samuel, I want to be able to say to God: “Speak, Lord, for your servant is listening.”  And really mean it.

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