One common complaint of people who share a regular relationship is that one person doesn’t listen very well when the other one is speaking. The road to communication is often blocked by inattention, TV noise, Blackberry checking, newsprint, something that makes hearing and really listening a difficulty. The one speaking feels undermined, dismissed, almost invisible. “You never listen!” becomes the complaint. “I’m never heard!” becomes the feeling. Little by little the relationship erodes and why? All for the lack of a simple form of meaningful conversation.
Sad as that dynamic is in our interpersonal relationships, it’s even more significant when it comes to our relationship with God. We try talking over the noise of TV drama or sports events, even when we choose to make the effort to talk to the King of the Universe. What happens is that we miss out on the opportunity to hear and to be heard. Sometimes we miss some portion of the conversation that was pivotal. We think we know what is going to be said, so we stop listening, even when we’re talking to God.
I’m reminded of the story of Moses as he walked with all those complaining children of Israel. Time after time, God showed His mercy to His chosen ones, giving them quails in the desert, guiding them with the pillar of cloud during the day and fire at night, but even with those obvious signs, they complained as though God couldn’t hear them. Moses was getting a little unnerved by the whole thing and in the midst of his own anger, he even stopped listening closely enough to God. When the people complained that they needed water, God offered a solution. He told Moses to speak to the rock and He would show the people what He/God could do. He would cause water to come gushing from the rock. Moses was maybe only half listening, maybe full of anger, maybe full of pride, because he got to the rock and instead of speaking to it, he tapped it twice with his staff to get the job done his way. God honored Moses by allowing the rock to pour forth with water, but something in their relationship was lost.
God would not allow Moses to cross over into the Promised Land then. Why? Because their communication was broken. Moses did not honor God with his actions. Later in Numbers, God goes on to tell another listener named Balaam, “Does God speak and then not act? Does he promise and not fulfill? God is always ready to listen and to act on your behalf.
Listening with the heart, with the mind, with full attention and concentration is a cornerstone of communication, a way to achieve a firm foundation whether you’re talking to your spouse, a friend, or to God. Stop doing everything else, take your partner’s hand, look with the eyes of your heart and listen. Hear and respond with love. If you recall that God spoke the whole universe into existence, you start to recognize how important the words are. What you say makes a difference.
Listen and love and speak with all your heart today.