Why Listening Is Part of God’s Repair
Aug 09, 2015 03:35AM
By Bonnie Lyn Smith
Summer: A time when the family spends significant amounts of quality time together, regroups from the busy school year, checks every item off the year-in-the-making to-do list, and catches up on each other’s lives.
Sound good? Yes, yes it does.
But summer can also be a time when all problems shoved to the side by our busyness the rest of the year come rushing into that empty space like an angry brook moving so swiftly, it polishes pebbles along the way.
Only I’m the pebbles, and no matter how smooth I think I am, the water continues to force its way in and demand my attention.
Know what I mean?
We glided into July with a few weeks of calm. It was good to sleep in, not worry about schoolwork, and follow our whims about the schedule.
And then, like a gigantic, threatening, visible but still-out-to-sea tidal wave, suddenly every issue that had been building—some unbeknownst to me—piled on top of my head. When I thought maybe I had a handle on one area, another person in the family would point out another flaw in our relational dynamic. Not fun.
Pretty soon I was seeing not just the frayed edges, but our seams were starting to unravel. What had been a building crisis in one of us caused everyone else to rip and tear. It was a mess, but it caused us to be more deliberate about our choices and our time. Among several decisions, we:
· Acknowledged our current limitations
· Recognized stressors that could be reduced or eliminated for the time being
· Cancelled big plans
· Involved people who could offer either good counsel or practical comfort
While those few steps were essential, the single most effective step we took was
Believe me: I didn’t want to. I got to the point where I’d rather cover my ears and sing loudly to myself than to hear more feedback, complaints, or even inquiries.
But you know what? We learned so much about ourselves and God as we trusted God with our unravelling and let Him direct the restitching.
Once I had a chance to sort out my thoughts, I found a way to have one-on-one time with each child. Sometimes, it was getting a chai latte out in a café. At other times, it was fabric shopping. It didn’t really matter how menial the task; valuable communication took place when I
kept my mouth shut,
James 1:19, ESV, James, Brother of Jesus, speaking
Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger…
We had been going at a rapid pace for so long that once the dust settled, everyone had plenty to say.
I learned that cutting off the complaint before it was fully delivered was not always productive. I had been shutting down communication thinking I’d spare each member more pain. Really, I was blocking the healing process of being heard.
Proverbs 18:13, ESV, Solomon speaking
If one gives an answer before he hears, it is his folly and shame.
There is certainly a time and a place for setting up healthy boundaries and not allowing toxic conversation to continue, but it is also okay to hear the harder statements and let people finish.
Really hearing someone is a skill we must always practice, pray for more of, and be deliberate about.
Hearing is part of God’s plan for repair.
Maybe you are an excellent listener already. I feel like I am when I’m not super-close to a situation and someone is coming to me for counsel and the problem isn’t my own.
Here are some questions I had to ask myself:
· Are you dominating?
· Are you railroading over what someone is trying to say?
· Could you repeat back the person’s concern?
· Does he/she feel validated and heard?
· Is your ear attentive to wisdom?
· Is your heart inclined toward understanding?
Um, hello, Proverbs 2:1-5!
Proverbs 2:1-5, ESV, Solomon speaking
My son, if you receive my words and treasure up my commandments with you,
making your ear attentive to wisdom and inclining your heart to understanding;
yes, if you call out for insight and raise your voice for understanding,
if you seek it like silver and search for it as for hidden treasures,
then you will understand the fear of the LORD and find the knowledge of God (emphasis mine).
I also discovered that God has a voice, and I was so consumed with putting out the fires around me, I forgot to listen to it. He was still speaking, but I had to tune in. Proverbs 2:1-5 asks me if I am calling out for insight, searching for it like hidden treasures?
Our first reaction is often to take the helm, rushing in with our own fix-it manual, or deny the issue altogether.
Proverbs 12:15, ESV, Solomon speaking
The way of a fool is right in his own eyes, but a wise man listens to advice.
Where can we fine-tune our listening this week for better connecting with others and with God?
Where can we find hope in the rubble of our communications-gone-wrong?
Where can our extended ears and hearts turn a relationship around or steer it in a better direction?
I’m still learning the non-talking end of communication, but I’m so grateful God offers us instruction and that our ears can be used as instruments of His repair.
Author Bonnie Lyn Smith writes about parenting, marriage, mental health advocacy, special education, faith in the valleys of life, the healing cloak of Jesus, drawing healthy boundaries, relational healing, renewing our minds, walking with a Holy God, and much ado about grace. Join the conversation at Espressos of Faith.
Her book, Not Just on Sundays: Seeking God’s Purpose in Each New Day, offers anecdotes on all of these subjects and Scripture for each situation as well as Book Discussion Questions for deeper exploration.