An Experiment in Listening

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Okay, last post on the Incarnation…maybe.

I like to work in coffee shops. Being an extrovert, I like to sit among people with my headphones on while reading, writing, emailing, or whatever my day has laid before me. It makes me feel as though I’m in community, even if I’m not really. Since I have started a graduate studies program in Missional Leadership back in August at Rochester College (which I HIGHLY recommend), I’ve been spending a lot of time in my local coffee shop. It’s a good place to get some work done and not have my two kids pulling my attention away. A lot of my coffee shop reading this semester has led me to a simple, yet profound thought: the need to listen.

The director of my master’s program and one of my favorite theologians and professors is Dr. Mark Love. Dr. Love has taught me this semester the need for listening leaders. Listening is not my best quality. While working through thoughts on listening this semester, I realized just how bad of a listener I am. I don’t think it is just something I struggle with. I’ve been attentive to this recently and noticed listening is not a common trait in our culture. It seems that most of my listening time is really spent preparing my next thought that I want to share. I have realized how selfish I can be and that I seem more concerned with what I have to say than with what others are saying to me. Rather than listening to what others have to offer and say, I have been acting as though I have the answers and thoughts that they need to hear.

I have been thinking a great deal over the past two weeks about the Incarnation and what it means for God to come, assume flesh and blood, and move into our neighborhoods. Creator God comes and allows us to host him. He lives among us. So, I have had this thought going along with Dr. Love helping to shape my thoughts on the world around me and how we go to them. How do we go to world? We go just like God came to us. In fact, one of the things my studies have taught me this semester is that we don’t go to them; we go with them and for them. That’s exactly what God does with us. What would it look like for my community to host me? Can I put myself out there like that?

So, I think there is a link between listening and living incarnationally. I was always taught that my purpose was to take a preset plan of evangelism to the world. I have things to teach and tell them and they need to hear me. What I have learned recently is that maybe sometimes I should go without thoughts of what I need and want to say. Rather, I should go and hear what they have to say and what the Holy Spirit might be doing. I should let my community host me. I should listen and see what God is up to in this person’s life and leave some room for the Holy Spirit to do work, rather than me being the one with answers.

I’m going to keep going to coffee shops. I like to work there and I love coffee. However, I’m going to try something new. I’m going to work without the headphones sometimes and leave space for people around me. I’m going to be praying for God to create a listening opportunity for me. I’m not going to worry about what I will say. I want to practice listening to what they have to say. Just like God came over 2,000 years ago and moved into our neighborhood, I want to try and do the same in mine. So I want to practice this listening experiment and see where it goes. Want to join me?

3 thoughts on “An Experiment in Listening

    Danny said:
    December 17, 2013 at 12:22 pm

    “ A worker of the Lord must build up the habit in his daily life of listening to others… If a Christian turns to a servant of the Lord for help, the worker should be able to discern three aspects of his brother’s words while he is listening: the words that are being uttered, the words that are being held back, and the words that are lying in the depth of the brother’s spirit.” (Watchman Nee; The Character of the Lord’s Worker; published by Living Stream Ministry)

    Brenda said:
    December 17, 2013 at 5:53 pm

    Guilty……thank you for opening my eyes so I can open my ears!

    Danny said:
    December 17, 2013 at 10:14 pm

    Thanks for the reminder. I agree; we’re all short in the matter of listening. Your statement “I want to practice listening” reminded me of Mark 7:32: “And they brought to Him one who was deaf and who spoke with difficulty…”
    Deafness is often the cause of dumbness. In many cases, a person who is deaf is also dumb – unable to speak or one who “speaks with difficulty” (v. 32). The reason for this is that speaking is based on hearing. We, I, all of us need to practice listening, not just to one another, but especially to the Lord. As we listen to the Word, it will penetrate our being. If we take care of listening to the Word of God, this listening eventually will become our speaking and our speaking to others will infuse them with something from the Lord and of the Lord. This kind of speaking meets every man’s need.

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