If you were to focus on one thing this year that would deepen your walk with God, what would it be? Think about it.
Because of a surgical procedure on my shoulder recently, I found myself sidelined from many activities that I would normally have in a week that occupy my time. I wish I could tell you that I handled all of this well, but the truth is I have struggled with the lack of activity. I am much better now, but the first three weeks stretched my patience.
It took a while to understand that because I was inactive, it didn’t mean that I had to be unproductive. So, I began to read and sit quietly. This was hard, but amazingly the more I practiced this quietness, the more I began to hear. It was as if I could now work on my listening skills with the noise of endless activity gone.
There have been so many times that I have asked God for guidance or an answer to a problem and then not commit the time to listening for the answer. It was like asking your parents to borrow the car, and because they did not answer immediately, you went away assuming the answer was no. Later you find out that the answer was yes, but they needed time to discuss your request.
Author Robert Wicks writes, “When we pray, how often do we say: ‘Speak Lord for your servant is listening?’ More often, I think we say, “Listen Lord for your servant is speaking!’”
Author Joyce Rupp wrote in her book The Cup of Life: “I have a friend who periodically loses her voice and must speak in whispers. One day she called me and whispered for fifteen minutes. It took a lot of energy for me to listen intently so that I could hear what she had to say. I think this is what it is like to be attentive to God. God often speaks in whispers. If my life is crowded and cluttered with many thoughts and feelings pushing their way around inside my head and heart, I may easily miss hearing what it is that God wants me to hear. Listening attentively is essential for spiritual growth. To do this, we need open minds and hearts, emptied of the clutter that blocks our way and crowds out what awaits entrance into our life. Listening is especially difficult to do because our external world is so full of noise. We are constantly bombarded with the noise of traffic, television, cell phones and numerous machines that tend to run our lives. We unconsciously learn how to tune out or ignore many of these noises when we are not deliberately paying attention to them. As we become accustomed to tuning out these external things, we develop a pattern of not listening internally as well. Besides clearing out some of the noise and the ceaseless activity, I think that listening also requires that we become more comfortable with “being.” “Being” helps us to develop awareness, to focus more keenly on our inner activity without needing to “do” anything except be attentive. This is tough to do, especially living in a culture that promotes constant activity and productivity. Every part of our life has something to offer us for our growth because God is there in the midst of it. When I give myself to attentiveness and deep listening, I find that I discover God everywhere. I hear connections with my deeper life in music, in correspondence I receive, in telephones calls, in the people I meet, in what I read and touch and taste.”
I have decided that the one discipline I need to work on most this year is listening. I have to slow down and listen for God’s voice, for God’s answer, for God’s warning and for God’s blessing. Listen. What do you hear? Do you hear what I hear?
Psalm 85:8 reads, “Let me hear what God will speak, for God will speak peace to the people to those who turn to God in their hearts.”
Join me in praying, “Lord, I believe that you are constantly trying to get my attention, but my life has been so cluttered with activity that I can’t hear your still, small voice. Father, you desire so much more of me than I have made available. It is in those empty spaces of my inner being that I most deeply commune with you. Unfortunately, the busyness and endless activities of life often block the doorway to that fertile and potentially productive space. Lord, beginning today would you help me move from my need for constant activity and noise to hungering more for the quietness of time spent in your presence? Hear this my prayer dear God. Amen.”
From the Heart
Chaplain Shelby Smith and Joyce Rupp