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Wednesday, December 9, 2009

The Gift of Listening

"Surely this is the greatest gift we can give to another—
to really listen."
~ Unknown

The Gift of Listening

I love the LORD,
because He has heard My voice and my supplications.
Because He has inclined His ear to me,
Therefore I will call upon Him as long as I live.
~ Psalms 116:1-2 (NKJV)

"Now we know that God does not hear sinners; but if anyone is a worshiper of God and does His will, He hears him."
~ John 9:31 (NKJV)

"Oh, that My people would listen to Me ..."
~ Psalms 81:13 (NKJV)

I've searched the Bible more than once, various ways, to find expressions of love for the Lord. In today's passage from Psalm 116, the psalmist speaks to a third party of his love for the Lord. Psalm 18 begins with David's declaration of intent in the words, "I will love You." And in John 21, Peter answers each of Jesus three queries about love with the words, "You know that I love You."

Considering that the greatest commandment is to love the Lord, doesn't it seem that it would be declared more often?

I come from a family effusive in expressions of love. We don't hang up the phone without an "I love you" and about every second Facebook status includes the same. As I get to know people through the internet, my affection becomes genuine. I don't pass along a single "I love you" or "much love" or "sending my love" that I don't mean. So for me, telling the Lord "I love You" on a regular basis is requisite.

But if the proof of love is in willingness to be quiet and listen, I fall short far more often than I'd ever want to admit. I'm horrible in conversation about interrupting with a question, comment, or—worst of all—my own anecdote or perspective. Being quiet in time of prayer too often leads to becoming distracted rather than hearing from the Lord. Even when I hear Him, if I fail to act immediately I am apt to not act at all.

Yet here is the reason the psalmist gives for loving the Lord: "because He has heard my voice ... because He has inclined His ear to me." The Bible, answered prayer, and peace of heart offer abundant testimony to the fact that in His love for us, the Lord is a good Listener.

Is there any friendship that would endure if we failed to listen?

Can we say we love the Lord and fail to listen, or fail to heed?

Lord, I confess that I've only begun to learn to listen. I ask for all Your people, and especially those reading these words, that You'd make each of us better listeners—truly hearing the words spoken and unspoken of those we love. Please enable our love for You to be expressed in listening quietly for Your voice.

Contrasting points-of-view, questions and feedback are invited. Post to "Comments" or e-mail to Copyright 2009, Anne Lang Bundy, all rights reserved.
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  1. Ah ... listening well - one of my challenges in life. Thanks for the reminder about the most important listening we can do - to our creator.

  2. We must listen with our hearts, as well as our ears.

  3. Remembering that we love Him because He first loved us. Oh, that our love for Him could come close to His love for us. I am afraid that I am right there with you ~ I struggle to be still and listen, to really hear, so many times.

  4. I very much can tell your affection is genuine. I come from a family that thrives on gushing and spouting off "I love yous" often. I agree, showing someone you love them often comes in the form of listening.

    ~ Wendy

  5. Having grown up in a family that was less free with its "I love yous," I treasure them all the more.

    Because it's a little harder for me to say the words easily, I show my affection by listening. That's not usually hard, unless I get really excited about the topic. :-)

  6. I actually find that when I sit still and listen, I fall asleep.

    Maybe if I wasn't so tired all the time....

  7. Janet, I caught this quote last night: "The opposite of talking isn't listening. The opposite of talking is waiting." (Fran Lebowitz) Does adding patience make for a double challenge, or what?

    Denise, I think you're absolutely right—the heart is where true listening must happen.

    Patty, if I think of listening as love's gift, I think it will be easier for me.

    Wendy, you're one of the people I have in mind when I speak of affection I've developed for people I've come to know online. Much love to you!

    Rosslyn, you bless me to share that. Some people who've not often heard expressions of love feel it's like china, to be saved for a special occasion. If they're a treasure to you, I'll be glad to tell you more often: I love you, dear!

    Peter, perhaps you fall asleep because by 9 pm your time it's midnight here in the real time. Or are you just making excuses for bad sleeping habits (of which I'd know nothing ... NOT!) ;D

  8. A few years back, my mother (now 86) started ending every phone conversation with "I love you." It surprised me, because it was an unusual thing for her to do. Now I wait for it -- and if she forgets, I say it first. But the listening is so important. Thanks for this.

  9. Anne, I came back and I'm crying. Your posts have that way with me.
    I love you, too!
    I see so much of Jesus in you.
    ~ Wendy

  10. My dear Anne, I'm weighing in late to say you're as an exuberant a listener as you are everything else. When you listen, you listen hard...maybe that includes a chime or two, but that's just an overflow of your zest and enthusiasm. I love you all the more for it, and that's the truth. :)

    I sometimes use the excuse that I don't have TIME for quiet listening. But I have learned that when the heart is open, the listening can happen anywhere...even in a boisterous classroom.

    God bless you this evening, Anne.

  11. I need much more of the Holy SPirit so I can turn up the voulme of the Lords voice. I crave to hear him so much, half the time I'm afraid it's me filling in the gaps! (Look at me last, ha!)

  12. Glynn, I'm touched to have you share this. My grandmother (she died in '96) likewise became particularly tender in her later years. What a gift for you from her!

    Wendy, :') to you, too.

    Gwen, God bless you! An exhuberent listener, you say? I'll accept the compliment without an argument, from one of my dearest listeners. And yes, I certainly know what it is to hear Him in a loud room—when my heart is really listening.

    T. Anne, I also worry that I'm filling in the gaps some days. (I did that today.) I know I'm being distracted when that happens, and I need some quality time with Him. (I'll happily give you the last word. :D)

  13. But let every man be swift to hear...

    I must admit that I don't say 'I love you' very often. Except to my children.

  14. Natasa, I thank you for reminding me of the "swift to hear" verse. I wasn't even thinking of it. I pray that the Lord's Spirit will show you when and how He'd have you say, "I love you." : )


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