Can you hear me now?
Have you ever been awakened out of a deep sleep, believing you hear someone calling your name? Since I have an elderly parent living in my home, I usually spring right out of bed and make my way to her room, imagining she has fallen or is crying out for some other reason to get my help. It happens every now and again, and honestly, I cannot say that it wasn't a real voice, because it sounds just as though you and I were speaking face-to-face, but louder! I will go into her room to find her totally asleep and snoring lightly in the depth of her slumber. So, who was it I heard? Was it just my imagination? Or was there some other source for the voice? Whenever this happens, I sit on the edge of the bed for a while trying to listen to God, hoping to find a reason why I was awakened that way. In time, it usually leads me to pray for those closest to me, often because I feel I was awakened for a reason - although I don't specifically know the reason all the time. Lest you think I am some "super-spiritual" woman, all "in touch with God" at all hours of the night - let me assure you otherwise. I don't spend hours in intercessory prayer, nor do I find myself hearing these voices pulling me out of my slumber all that often. But...when I do - I listen! There is something about being that "awake" and "aware" that just demands you pay attention!
You all came and stood at the foot of the mountain. It blazed with fire all the way up into the sky while dark clouds and mist obscured your view. Then the Eternal spoke to you from inside that fire. You heard His voice, you heard His words, but you didn’t see His shape—you only heard a voice. (Deuteronomy 4:11-12 VOICE)
Israel had a rare opportunity to hear the voice of God - indirectly, I know, but they heard it clearly from the Mount Sinai. Moses actually communed with God - so close to the presence of God's face that his own face shown with the majesty of the glory of God when he came down from the Mount. I can only imagine what that would be like - to hear the voice of God as clearly as you hear the voice of the one next to you in conversation. The truth is, when we are in the right place, we hear God's voice in many ways - but we probably don't recognize it because of the "mist and dark clouds" which prevent us from full recognition some of the time. It doesn't take us going to the Mount Sinai to hear God's voice clearly. It doesn't take us going inside a church, or even to the foot of the nativity scenes erected around cities this holiday season. What it does take is a heart, mind, and spirit willing to get quiet long enough to actually enter into his presence and then just sit there listening.
Listening is probably one of the hardest things for most of us to learn in life - because we somehow equate listening with "inactivity". We think if we are just still, we will hear. There is nothing further from the truth, for listening is an active process and it requires us to be in the right frame of mind, with the attitude of heart which is actually open to receive, and the spiritual hunger that drives us into the presence of the one we seek to hear. Although I don't listen to Larry King, one of the things he frequently tells others about himself is that he knows if he is to learn anything new in his day, he has to listen. His words ring true - we don't learn by our talking, but by our listening. Most of the "gurus" of communication will remind us of the tactics we must take in becoming a "good listener". They are true, but are they the only tactics we must master? I don't think so - for maintaining eye contact is usually number one on their list and guess what - I haven't seen God's face yet! I have seen evidence of his presence, felt his presence, and seen the beauty of his love in the face of others, but I haven't seen HIM face-to-face!
Ernest Hemingway once said most people DON'T listen. It is a sad state of affairs, but a true one nonetheless. One of the most important parts of listening that I have learned is not so much the eye contact (although it is important), but the idea of "being present in the moment". In other words, I shut out the distractions, stop what I was doing and just pay attention. This probably matters more than any other "tactic" or "technique" we can "master" when it comes to listening. It also probably demands the most effort on our part, for we can all be those kind of listeners who are too preoccupied with some other thing that we are not truly "present" in the moment. God doesn't demand our highest "skills" when it comes to listening, he just looks for the alignment of our mind, heart, and spirit - with the yielding of our will to just be still long enough to listen to what he says.
He speaks through his Word - spending time taking in scripture is better when we are actually "present in the moment" while we are doing so! He speaks through others who know him well - actually engaging with them through active listening is one means to learn how he speaks and to receive his words. He speaks through nature - for even the trees, birds, and brooks speak of his majesty and great care. Stop long enough, focus your attention, and just wait - he speaks. You just have to be in the right "frame" to hear! Just sayin!