I am sometimes guilty of listening with one ear. Someone is talking and I try to steal a glance at the mail on the counter. Someone is telling a long story and I look like I’m listening, but I’m really thinking about what to make for dinner. Chicken? No we just had chicken. Who hasn’t tried to keyboard quietly while listening to someone else on the phone?
We’re all guilty.
The International Listening Association in River Falls, Wis. (did you know there was such a group?) says we spend almost half of our time listening, but we are preoccupied or forgetful about 75 percent of the time.
Listening to people requires giving my full attention, good eye contact (when possible) and verbal encouragement. “Oh.” “Uh-hu.” “Then what?”
I know the skills it takes to listen to people, but how do I listen to God? There’s no eye contact. He certainly doesn’t need verbal encouragement. So how do we listen?
Psalm 46:10 is a great starting point. “Be still and know that I am God.”
There are two verbs are in that short verse. The first one is a command to “be still.” I found “still” in a Hebrew dictionary and I think you’re going to like it, “Still” in Hebrew is raphah (raw-faw’). The primary root means to slacken. Don’t you love it? A command in the Bible that says you should slacken. Literally, or figuratively, the word means, to abate, to cease, to be slack, to be still, to be slothful. I can do that! Finally, a command I can handle.
Or can I? Can anyone be still in this day and age? We live in a world where the working mantra is Busy is Better. We’re all prone to the busy side of the street. And the crazy part is we nearly brag about it.
“Hi! How you doin?”
“Busy. Really busy. How are you?”
“Great. Let’s do lunch!”
“Sure! How about 2017?”
Know what? Busy is not better. Unplug. The iPhone, the iPod, the ear buds, turn off the television, turn off the radio, put down the book, the magazine, take time to slacken, to be still.
Be still and know that I am God. Find time.
I remember hearing Edith Schaffer speak when my children were very small and she said she kept a Bible on the bathroom windowsill because sometimes that was the only place she could find a little peace and quiet. I thought, oh my! Does it really get that bad, Edith? Yes, some days it does.
Find time—in the kitchen, the family room, on a park bench, walking the dog or sitting in your car, in a lawn chair, at your desk, but be still. Standing, sitting kneeling, be still. To listen to God you have to be still. Do nothing. Shove that to do list out of your mind and be still.
We now come to the second verb in that short verse: “know” that He is God.
How do we do that knowing part? The Hebrew again.
The Hebrew word “know” is used in a variety of senses, figurative, literally, euphemistically and by inference. It means to acknowledge. Sit still and acknowledge God. It means to be aware, comprehend, consider, declare, discern, discover, feel, perceive, regard, have respect, be sure of, understand.
Be still—so that you can engage your mind. This would indicate study, contemplation, discussion, seeking wise counsel.
Most of us are not naturally inclined to listen, to one another and particularly to God. Even in prayer, we’re not inclined to listening. It’s so hard to slow our minds down.
Personally, I’m much better at talking in prayer than listening. I’m much better at giving God a list of ways he might address a particular problem. I’m thinking a.., b., or c., Lord. Or d., all of the above. Do I never close my mouth?
Sometimes faith is at its best when faith comes to the end of words. After the last word is spoken, the last tear has fallen, we listen.
When there’s nothing more to say, we listen.
When we’re too heartbroken to talk, we listen.
Stop talking. Listen. Know that He is God.
Lori Borgman is a popular newspaper columnist, author and speaker. Her newspaper column is distributed to more than 325 papers throughout the United States and Canada. Lori offers wit and insight on family and culture and has been described as, “Mark Twain without the cigar.” Lori also touches on serious subjects regarding parenting, faith and the sanctity of life. You can find Lori at www.loriborgman.com.
Lori earned is the author of four books, including “I Was a Better Mother Before I Had Kids” and “Catching Christmas.” She is also author of the popular obituary, “The Death of Common Sense” (now available in book form) which has been published in eight countries and translated into five languages.
Lori is a frequent speaker at Town Hall lecture series, author lecture series, libraries, civic groups, corporate groups and women’s groups. She counts two of her greatest privileges to include addressing a Spouses of Congress event at the Capitol and delivering the commencement address to college graduates at the Indiana Women’s Prison.
She and her husband, Charlie Nye, also a journalist, have three grown and married, six adorable grandchildren age four and under, and a seventh on the way.