I was recently around a person with a hearing loss. Often this individual misunderstood something that was said, or did not hear it at all. There were several frustrating moments of repeating sentences or even getting in little disagreements. There is a desire to hear, but not an ability to hear. I have also noticed a problem with hearing around my son. Sometimes, he needs me to repeat things 5 times. Other times that same boy will ask about a word he hears on a barely audible radio station. In his case, it’s not about his ability to hear; it’s about his desire to hear. It’s not a hearing problem; it’s a listening problem.
According to the dictionary, To hear means to perceive by the ear. To listen means to give attention with the ear; to heed or obey.
Many times, I have both hearing and listening problems when it comes to my spiritual life. I’ve often responded in frustration, asking God to be louder. I think a better response would be to look at myself, and see how I could be a better listener.
Here are some questions I’m asking myself:
- Do I need a hearing aid?
Someone with a hearing loss should see a doctor. There may be steps they could take, such as a hearing aid, to improve their hearing.
Are there areas in which I have a hindered ability to hear God? What kind of issues do I carry with me that interfere with my ability to hear the truth of what God says about himself? What kinds of issues do I carry with me that interfere with my ability to hear the truth of what God says about me? Perhaps I need a “hearing aid.” Whether it is a professional counselor or just a friend, there is great value in seeking wisdom and help from a community.
- Is there too much distracting noise?
If someone who already has hearing problems is in a room with a blaring television, it makes conversation even more difficult. He or she will likely have trouble hearing the person speaking.
What practices do I have in my life to consciously reduce distractions so I can hear God? How much time do I have in quiet or silence? (Boy, that is a convicting question for me.) Do I read the Bible in the midst of multi-tasking, or do I give it designated time and space? Quiet, designated space for prayer and Bible-reading allows me to pay direct attention to God. God may not give me a profound insight or direction every time, but at least I will have listening posture to hear Him when He does.
- Have I heard, but just not listened?
When my son says “what?” for the fourth time, I feel frustrated. I usually get down on his level, put my hands on his cheeks, and remind him that he should be ready to listen before he asks me to repeat myself.
When I ask God to be louder, I wonder if sometimes He wants to grab my cheeks and ask me to be ready to listen this time. He has given me much direction through His Word, prayer, and Christian community. Sometimes it is not that I haven’t heard Him, it is that I have chosen to ignore Him. I am afraid to act on what I heard, so I pretend I haven’t heard how to act.
In Mark 4, Jesus tells the Parable of the Sower. He describes several responses to the Word, which He compares to a seed. In some cases, the soil is hard and doesn’t accept the seed at all. In other cases, there are weeds or rocks that hinder the seeds growth.
I pray that I will be able to work through my hearing and listening problems, so that I can cultivate good soil. I want my life to mirror Mark 4:20.
Others, like seed sown on good soil, hear the word, accept it, and produce a crop—some thirty, some sixty, some a hundred times what was sown.