I was riding in the car with my family recently. Worship music was playing and my older son piped up and said, “Mommy, you’re really into Jesus and songs about Jesus. You’re not interested in other stuff. Just Jesus and God.”
My initial reaction was one of gratitude that he is growing up and recognizing that his parents love the Lord.
Then my ego found some slight friction with the part about ‘not being interested in other stuff.’
Was my 5 year old suggesting that I am not a well-rounded person? That I do not care about other things around me? Does he believe that I’m not interested in him?
Well, that is simply not the case because I do not keep the Moana soundtrack on my phone for my personal amusement. (Ok… maybe a little. But mostly for him.)
If you guys haven’t figured it out, I am a chronic over-analyzer. There wasn’t anything more to what my son meant than exactly what he said. God does a lot of work in me to filter out what thoughts are my own and what is from Him. It’s a good thing that He doesn’t tire of teaching and growing us.
And man, has He been doing a lot of the teaching and growing thing in my world lately.
I’m aware that the previous posts in this series were broad in how they relate to encouraging great communication among women, which is at the heart of beingSALTY, but I appreciate you sticking with me because I’m about to wrap up the main theme.
But first, I’ll need to start at the beginning.
I have been wrestling with some communication questions lately: How do I listen well to God and to others? How do I discern between God’s wisdom and the sometimes misguided advice of well-intentioned people who care about me? How do I know when to close a conversation that is not grounded in what I know to be true and how do I do it with love and grace? When do I press on into that uncomfortable territory and become a mouthpiece for Truth? When do I step down and remember that God does not need me to defend Him?
You know, just a few minor things.
These are obviously stemming from much larger and complex situations but the overarching theme has always come back to the thoughts represented in my two previous posts. The first is the recognition that God holds all truth, and I must understand that positionally, I am almost always operating with limited information. And here is the kicker: SO IS EVERYONE ELSE!
The second post outlined the other main point that we must surrender fully to Him in faith and rely on His Word, which is flawless and unchanging.
How do these concepts work together to become a game changer in answering many of the questions I have been stewing in for months… and how do they change the game in how we listen to others?
Understanding our own limitations and those of the other flawed humans around us in relation to the vast knowledge of God, brings us to a place of humility. When we walk in humility, we draw from a deeper well of grace. That grace we extend others is love.
Even when we don’t see eye to eye, it is possible to give our attention fully to someone else and hear them with empathy and compassion, while not necessarily agreeing with or validating what they are saying. We can listen, we can love. We don’t always have to come to the same conclusion.
Knowing that we have a timeless, living resource in the Word of God, gives us access to the fullness of the Truth at all times. As we move forward in faith, guided by the most real and accurate, God-breathed information we will ever know, we are often a bigger mouthpiece for that Truth than just talking about it would ever be.
Our faith, as it grows, is a natural response to our love for God.
What do you consider great listening skills to look like? Maintaining eye contact? Offering affirming cues in your speech and body language to indicate you are engaged? Repeating what you are hearing from the other person in your own words to show that you are with them?
Sure, all of those things are excellent and very practical tips for listening, but if we don’t do it in love, trusting Jesus and clinging to the truth of His word, then all those other listening boxes you could check are just technicalities..
I know I have said it before, but it bears repeating: good communication, right speech, all of these things are less an issue of the mouth and more an issue of the heart. It is an issue of love.
The 13th chapter of 1 Corinthians paints a beautiful picture on how to listen:
If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing.
Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.
Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away. For we know in part and we prophesy in part, but when completeness comes, what is in part disappears. When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put the ways of childhood behind me. For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.
And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.
1 Corinthians 13
We can attempt to do all the things, be all the things, and overwork and exhaust ourselves in the process. We can have all the right words and still say nothing of value. Knowing this, it is easy to be disheartened.
But we can find hope in the fact that though now we see in part, one day we will see fully… and in the meantime, we are fully known by our amazing God, and we are well equipped with His amazing Word.
Without love in our hearts, our faith would become stale and hollow, our hope would whither away. Without His love working in us, not only our speech, but even our listening can be as noisy as a clanging cymbal. With it, our listening can be a peaceful comfort, a warm embrace, and a joyful, meaningful encounter.
Consider a recent encounter in which you had to listen to someone else. How did you handle it? Was your listening an outpouring of love? Take some time to prayerfully consider how you listen well, and in what ways you can improve. Ask the Holy Spirit to guide you through your next listening encounter and fill your heart with love and grace for that person.
Think back to a time when you felt that someone really heard you? What was it, specifically, that made you feel that you had been listened to and understood? How do you see God’s presence worked into that scenario? Comment and share to offer inspiration and encouragement to your community.