The Art of Really Listening.

I'm a listener.  I have joked on numerous occasions that I missed my calling as a therapist because I love hearing stories.  Tell me where you've been, where you dream of going, who you lost along the way, and who has completely changed your life.  Better yet, tell me how you met Jesus and all of the wonderful things He has done for you.  Listening is my joy, my happiness, my thing.

I'm just not very good at it.  Seriously, I'm not.  I try really hard to be an awesome listener, but my head always gets in the way.  Because as someone is speaking to me, instead of fully listening and capturing everything they are saying, I am trying to figure out how I am going to answer.  I miss half of the story that I love to hear because I'm too busy anticipating my moment of response.

A good friend and I were talking about the concept of listening versus really listening the other night and it has rolled around in my spirit for days now.  Am I listening to prepare a reply when my coworker tells me a story, or am I really listening with my whole heart as her voice pleads for someone to cradle her story with gentle hands?  How many opportunities to love, to serve, to really listen have been misplaced?  How much am I missing?

And I am the same way with God.  I snuggle in close during our time together, but my mind strays as He continually whispers His story of sacrificial love over me.  He showers me with divine affection and I can't hear Him because I'm trying to figure out what to say in return.  How many "I love you"'s from the Throne have I unknowingly ignored simply because I refuse to be still and know?  How much am I missing?

How much are we missing?

It's not about offering the perfect words in response.  In fact, sometimes there simply are no words.  Sometimes the greatest response we can offer in the presence of heartache, tragedy, or great joy is reverent silence.  Listening is about being present, being available.  And making ourselves available requires bravery.  

As we dive deep into our faith, our hearts, and our lives this year, let's have the courage to open ourselves to the stories surrounding us.  Let's be brave enough to settle our souls in the presence of our Heavenly Father and hear what He says.

Let's learn the art of really listening, to each other and, most importantly, to God.

"Wherefore, my beloved brethren, let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath..." James 1:19.

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