I wonder just how many times we rant on and on to God about something, all the while ignoring his desire to get a word in edge-wise? It amazes me how much "talking" I do in prayer time and just how little "listening" I allow! I don't think I am in this alone - am I? I think we are quick to spill our guts out before God, but I really wonder just how quick (and possibly willing) we are to listen to his instruction! Job found himself at this crossroad one day - here's what he finally said to God just before he took a moment to actually listen:
"I'm speechless, in awe—words fail me. I should never have opened my mouth! I've talked too much, way too much. I'm ready to shut up and listen." (Job 40:3-5 The Message)
I am ready to shut up and listen....pretty poignant words, huh? Two conditions are laid out - we have to "shut up" and we have to "listen". There is quite a difference between being "silent" and being "attentive"! In fact, most of the time, we manage a little silence, but still miss the message, simply because we were not paying attention!
Job has mustered quite a bit of complaining in his present circumstances. He lost family, flock, and his own pride - all causing him to find a whole lot of things to "talk about" without ever sitting quietly to "hear about" these things from God's perspective. We do this, don't we? We find all kinds of ways to belabor the facts of our failings, frenzies, and fiascoes - - - all the while spinning our yarns about why we "think" these have occurred. In turn, we tell ourselves a story - - - just not always the most accurate accounting!
What occurs when we take time to finally hear about things from God's perspective is a change in perspective! When we begin to transition from "talking about" our mess toward "listening to learn" about God's "message" in our mess, we might actually learn something which will liberate us! I am not proposing we just sit quietly and wait for some "voice from heaven" to speak to us. In fact, "listening" is an active process. This is one of the reasons you will find me journaling sermons, my own bible reading, and just some of those special moments when God needs to do something in me. It "focuses" me into an active role in listening.
Listening involves receiving - - - there has to be a "receptive" heart. In examining the components of "receiving", here are a few tidbits to keep in mind:
- Receiving involves something being "conferred" - there is a transfer of information, substance, or meaning which brings to light things often not otherwise considered. When we are in a receiving "mode", we are open to new insight - to take into our possession something otherwise not known or understood.
- Receiving leaves an impression - there is something which affords or allows "space" to be taken by what is received. For example, when you make a plaster-of-paris "cast" of your hand, you leave behind an "impression" of your hand. The plaster "received" your hand - yielding "space" for the imprint. When God's word is allowed a place in our hearts, it leaves an impression!
- Receiving encompasses us having a welcoming spirit - there is an openness to "entertain" what God is doing, saying, and revealing. I used the word "entertain" in quotes because we can associate with this word - it carries the idea of "holding something in the mind" - allowing it to begin to affect how we process the information we possess. We "hear" a lot of stuff - as did Job - but we choose what we will "entertain".
I wonder just how much God might actually speak into us if we "shut up" long enough to "receive" what he desires to reveal to us? We all probably need to do a better job of "winding down" on our complaining, and "focusing in on" our active listening skills. Since I don't think I am in this boat alone, I know I have others who are "rowing" just as hard as I do! Maybe it is time to put up the sail and let God do a little "directing" of our progress across this sea of confusion!