listening

In response to the ‘living a life’ post, HD asked: “But HOW do you listen? HOW do you find quietness to actually hear Him?”

My opinion:

How the heck should I know?

Just kidding.

I don’t really believe there is a secret here. In fact, I think the difficulty we have in accepting the answer to this question is that it seems too obvious to be true. We’d love to have some secret, some series of steps to finding God and hearing him clearly.

The truth is, listening is just listening.

It takes attention and focus. It requires reducing self-consciousness to background noise. It requires awareness of more than just words – expressions, gestures, inflections, nuances.

Real listening requires intimacy and intimacy – real intimacy, not the sex kind of intimacy, but the vulnerable, unconditional, broken-lives kind of intimacy – requires courage and patience and commitment. Above all, real intimacy requires unselfish love.

Living in a household with 11 other people, most of whom are participating in some sick, perpetual screaming contest, has taught me that the quietness necessary for listening is not found in external solitude.

I’ve been in some of the quietest places you can imagine, with nothing but my own thoughts and the sound of nature filling my head, and I’ve been entirely unable to hear anything but my own noisy confusion.

On the other hand, some of my most profound experiences in hearing from God have come in the midst of absolute external chaos.

It reminds me of what it’s like to catch a look in my wife’s eyes from across a crowded room, a look that speaks volumes without any words, undeterred by the noise between us.

Furthermore, listening requires trust. It’s necessary to trust that you’re not being manipulated or mocked. We have a real problem in our culture these days with an ever-present feeling of the need to protect ourselves.

We filter everything we hear through our mental risk-assessments and insurance polices to ensure we’re not being taken for granted. Our egos can’t tolerate the possibility we could be seen as fools, and as a result, we end up hearing “blah, blah, blah, warning” rather than “I love you; please take my hand.”

Years ago, I went through a series of questions with Renee and other friends about learning to understand God’s will for our lives, i.e. listening about important stuff. I developed a complex, yet profound formula for discerning God’s direction for our lives, and I’ll even present it as a series of steps:

Ready?

1. Remove the layers covering your heart: expose yourself to him.

2. Offer yourself to him. Sincerely.

3. Do what comes next: take the next step.

4. Repeat.

That’s it.

I know it’s ridiculous, but it makes me feel better.

Let me sum up this abstract answer with further abstraction, taken from the words of my favorite song, Drunkard’s Prayer, by Over The Rhine:

Like an ocean without waves,

You’re the movement I crave

And in that motion, I long to drown

To be lost, not to be found

Sweet intoxication, when your words wash over me

Whether or not your lips move,

You speak to me

2 thoughts on “listening”

  1. this had nothing to do with your entry…but I saw you today towards the finish line of the marathon. I was standing in front of the cafe and I heard all these people cheering “DALE..GO DALE” and I look around and there you are. Good job Dale!!!

  2. Where are you, Dale? I sure miss seeing your writings. I am thinking a great post lies ahead because you have something stored up. Can’t wait to see it. I love you!

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