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Hearing and Listening

Hearing and Listening

Okay, this story will get me in big trouble, and frankly, it should. But I don’t care. It’s such a good story it just needs to be told. I spoke at a big church in Nashville on Sunday. Doris went with me, and as is her custom, drove. On the way home, she was driving. She looked like a million bucks. It had been a good morning, lots of fun, very affirming. (This was one of the great, iconic churches in Nashville.) I was just moved by the moment so I said to her in a kind of soft voice, “I love you.”

Nothing. Nada. No response whatsoever. She did not acknowledge me. Did not answer back. Didn’t even look my way. So, I turned to her, and in the same volume, began to talk. “I’m talking to you right now. I’m trying to tell you what’s on my heart. After nearly 44 years together, you are as beautiful to me today as the first time we met.”

Again, nothing. Not so much as a smile or a nod. That’s when two things dawned on me. I am more in love with this woman, that I have spent 2/3rds of my life with than I ever dreamed possible. And…she is deaf as a poker. Growing old is such an adventure.

I have been thinking about hearing a lot this week. Particularly about hearing from God. It has been one of those weeks where an inordinate number of conversations have included the words, “God told me,” or “I believe the Holy Spirit is saying.” In fact, I was in a meeting this week where God told two people the exact opposite thing. And they both were sure that He was telling me to agree with each of them. I have counseled husbands that told me God told them to leave their wives. I talked to a lady that said God told her to buy lottery tickets. (He didn’t tell her what number to play. That would have been helpful.) When I was a young pastor I had a church leader tell me God wanted me to move to another church, and another leader tell me God wanted me to stay right where I was. And lest you think I am being critical of these “hard of hearing” folk, I could fill the page with stories of when I thought God telling me something only to find out later it was indigestion. In fact, I like to say, “I never have a problem knowing the will of God. I just look back two years after a decision and can say with acuity, that was or was not God speaking.”

I have been posting on Instagram all week, talking about how important it is to hear from God. Here are a few:

“Listening to the Voice of God is not just something I do. It is, or should be, as much a reflex action as breathing, and just as important for life.”

“Shema Ysrael. Hear Israel is both a command and a statement of faith. We believe God speaks.”

“When I do not listen to God I have nothing to say and no vision worth following.”

And this last one is the key. “The problem has never been God speaking. It has always been an issue of my listening.”

 

That’s the point of this little diatribe. We all believe, at least those of us who call ourselves Christ followers, that God has, does, and will speak from time to time, to His people. Most of us have experienced those moments where we heard the Voice of God, at least in the form of an impression or a persistent thought.

  • “You need to check on your friend.” Only to find out they were really struggling with something and needed a kindly phone call.
  • “Don’t go home the usual way.” And you find out there was a bridge out and a potential accident was avoided.
  • “Everything will be okay. Trust me.” Peace sweeps in. You relax. The problem does resolve itself.

Those times when we look back and can say, “God spoke to me,” may be few and far between, but they are present and proof that God still talks to us.

The concern then, is not God speaking. The concern it how do I hear?

Well, I don’t know. But I have been thinking this week about a few things that might be helpful. Here they are. (Or maybe, HEAR they are.)

First, I stay close to Him. I don’t know everything about how and why God speaks but I do know I am far more likely to hear Him correctly if I am right up next to Him. Another Instagram post I wrote was this. “In those difficult times keep your eyes on God. That way if you are having trouble hearing His voice, you can read His lips.”

Here’s a second thought, turn down the other noises. Frankly, on any given decision, I have a ton of voices telling me what to do. Some of them are even my own. Getting away and getting quiet helps me to tune in to the One Voice that really matters.

Third, examine my heart. Let me be honest, I usually hear best the voice that comes from my own heart. In other words, I hear what I want to hear. If my heart is full of lust I hear, “Leave your family and run off with the young secretary.” If my heart is full of bitterness I hear, “Turn your back on that person and never speak to them again.” The god that I hear best is the one I want to hear so I examine my heart and get it realigned with the God who “gives me the desires of my heart.”

Last, spend lots of time in His Word and with His people. God is not going to tell me something that is contrary to His Word. He is not going to send me down a path that completely disregards good, Godly counsel. Dennis Kinlaw used to talk about “the law of the second witness.” When God is telling you something, He will have gone before you and prepared confirmation.

I am not suggesting that we should not courageously follow the Voice of God in our lives. God help us to do just that. But I am saying that every time I want to tell somebody off, or quit my Bible Study group, or do my own thing in some way, I need to be careful about saying, “God told me this.” I need to work hard at listening because when He speaks it is always right.

God speaks to us. Without that assurance, we are serving some watchmaker god who just wound us up a million years ago and set us adrift in the cosmos. No, we love and serve an intimate, personal, faithful God who is interested in the most minute detail of our everyday life. AND, who wants to lovingly guide and direct us to our very best way of being. He talks to us daily, most often in subtle hints that we don’t even recognize as Him. That thought both blesses me immensely and challenges me to be a careful listener.

Now, excuse me. Doris is calling me. I think I’ll just act like I don’t hear her….

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