“Let anyone with ears to hear listen!”
“Let anyone with ears to hear listen!” Mark 4:23
“Listen to me!” These words have been said by mothers dealing with children, by teachers trying to impart to students an understanding of a complicated chemistry formula; by spouses as they share feelings and frustrations; and by the public media as they try to sell us a product or a service. The tone of voice or the word that is emphasized may change, but in all cases someone is being asked to listen with not only their ears but also their mind and/or heart.
Listening is love in communication, for when one listens one does more than hear: one becomes aware of the total person through their tone of voice, gestures, and body language. One may also become aware of their hidden fears or resentments. Listening is done for the sake of another. It is showing love by being attentive; it is a stance of openness to another’s hurts, sorrows, beliefs and fears. Morton Kelsey says that “listening is vital because we can only love those human beings to whom we truly listen.
Listeners, are called to be sensitive to what is being said and also to the person doing the talking. At times one may hear ideas different from your own; or of things that are “foreign” or “wrong” to you, or of needs you never knew existed. The act of listening can move you into new arenas of love and action as a follower of the Christ.
Listening is also part of our relationship with God. Prayer can be a primary means of listening to God. Too often though we spend our prayer-time talking to God or even making demands upon God, instead of trying to discern what God is saying to us. Listening prayer means that we must slow down and allow sufficient time for our hearts to become attuned to God. This will not happen immediately, but as we allow the inner-self to quiet down, God’s presence will be felt within.
We can also listen to God through nature. The sounds we hear may be ones of joy as the birds greet the new day; of hunger as the baby kitten cries for milk; of violence as a storm rages through the night; or of fear as an injured animal cries out in pain. The laughter and groaning of nature is God calling each of us to care for creation. We are to protect and to maintain this special gift from God. Are we listening with our hearts and our minds? Does our hearing call us to action?
Jesus was a good listener. He listened to the teachers in the temple and to his mother. He listened to his disciples and to his friends. He listened to those who agreed with him and were willing to follow him, but he also listened to those who could not make the necessary changes to follow his teachings. Jesus also listened to God. As followers of Christ we are called to be listeners to the many voices of God speaking to us each day.
As listeners we must not only listen to each other, we must also listen to ourselves and most of all we must listen to God. It is then that we will be able to discern the Holy Spirit nudging us and moving us beyond ourselves into the larger reality of service to others.
Joyce D. Sohl, Laywoman-in-Residence
Joyce D. Sohl has been Laywoman-in-Residence since 2009 as a full-time volunteer. She retired as CEO of United Methodist Women in 2004. She is the author of 4 books, a teacher, retreat leader, writer and non-professional musician. Here at the Center her work is in the area of Spirituality & the Arts with such programs as Tuesdays in the Chapel, Vespers & All That Jazz, Poet’s Corner, quarterly retreats, and art exhibits.