Let Every Heart Prepare Him Room: Listening, Dec 7
There is a difference between hearing and listening. Hearing is when we are able to physically register that there is a sound in our environment. And, hearing may even extend to translating those sounds into some sort of meaning. Listening, however, occurs when we take those words to heart.
In Hebrews 3:7-8, there is a phrase that is repeated several times in the chapter. “Today, if you hear His voice, don’t harden your hearts.” In these words, we see the difference between and the important of hearing and listening. Hearing speaks of the content (“if you hear His voice”) and listening has to do with the heart (“don’t harden your hearts”). As we choose to listen, God softens our hearts. When we don’t listen, our hearts are hard or resistant to what God is saying.
Note of caution: we generally would not consider ourselves to be hard of heart. However, hardness of heart, or not listening to God, is seen as a real challenge in the Scriptures. Over and over, God implores with us to look at our hearts. Those who are committed and serious about God will tend to have all the right actions but not from heart (cf. Matthew 23:25-26, the outside of the cup is clean but the inside is full of greed and self-indulgence). Others may initially receive what is said but fail to listen amid the clamor and noise of life (cf. Mark 4:16-17, the troubles of life are a distraction). Finally, there are some who are distracted because other desires seem to be stronger (cf. Mark 4:18-19, the promise of riches and others things to make life easy).
There is something deeper than the pride of right actions and the hurts of harsh realities and the desires for a pain-free existence. That something deeper is what is promised at Christmas: a life with God … a life where we are experiencing love, joy, peace, patience, goodness because we are experiencing Him and listening to Him.
To receive the gifts of Christmas, we have to be able to listen. We don’t change and grow through magic or wishing it so but through a relationship of listening (heartfelt response to what is heard; often called “obedience”). We begin relationship with God through receiving the gift of forgiveness because of what Jesus did on the cross. We grow in the relationship as we do what He asks. His “asks” are for our hearts … all the commands of Scripture are for our hearts … that we would live from the heart according to our created design.
We need to be able to hear … and listen.
We spent the first week of Advent learning to wait … letting go of our perspectives, interpretations, and expectations. In doing this, He humbles us so that we are now in a place of being able to listen.
As we embark on sharpening our listening skills, there is one thing we need to keep in mind. He is always speaking. Several hundred years ago, Francois Fenelon wrote:
“We must silence every creature, including self, that in the deep stillness of soul we may perceive the ineffable voice of the Bridegroom. We must lend an attentive ear, for his voice is soft and still, and is only heard of those who hear nothing else! Ah, how rare it is to find a soul still enough to hear God speak! The slightest murmur of our vain desires, or of a love fixed upon self, confounds all the words of the Spirit of God. We hear well enough that he is speaking, and that he is asking for something, but we cannot distinguish what is said … let us recognize, then, the fact that God is incessantly speaking in us.”
As we begin this week of listening, practice the discipline of hearing today. Take 5-10 minutes of solitude and ask: “Father, what do You do desire to say to me today?”
- Begin with a Scripture reading (Hebrews 3:7-8), and then sit quietly and listen.
- Are there are voices, noises, or thoughts distracting you? Don’t try to control the distractions, just let them go (this is part of learning to hear/listen).
- Return to listening with a simple, “Father, Your servant is listening.”
*Don’t worry if you don’t hear anything, you are simply learning to put yourself in a place to hear/listen, and often, the Father just enjoys sitting quietly with us.
At the end of this time, simply pray:
Father, help me to silence every creature, including myself. I want to listen to You as I hear your voice. Help me to learn stillness so that I might be attentive to Your good and gracious voice. As I hear, may I have the courage to follow Your heart from my heart. Thank you for desiring to do life with me.