“Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak.” (James 1:19 NIV)
If we calculate the amount of time we talk versus the amount of time we listen, what would be the ratio? Would it tilt toward talking or listening? A good friend of our family had an uncanny ability to listen. If you would ask her how she was doing, she would quickly turn the conversation back to what was going on in your life.
On a Sunday morning a few years ago, I experienced the blessing of taking communion to a 95 year old gentleman, a widower who lives alone in the house that has been his for more than 40 years. In response to my question of “How are you doing today,” I heard about his wife of 52 years who died a few years ago; about his son who is a priest; about the many missions he flew in World War II and the Korean War; how he was a consultant to Congressional committees overseeing the Air Force, and finally, about his current health issues. What a blessing it was not to talk for more than 30 minutes, but just listen.
We have the opportunity to listen wherever we are — at work, at home, or social gatherings. If our desire is to learn and grow in each of these venues, we soon realize that we don’t learn much from talking, but we do from listening. As an attorney, I found that I was able to better serve my corporate clients when I listened more. At home, I serve and love my wife and children better by listening more. At social events I honor our guests by listening more. While my efforts are sometimes spotty, I try to change course as soon as I realize that I am talking too much.
We can also listen even when we are alone. The Lord loves to put thoughts in our minds about various things going on in our life so long as we are open to hear him. When Moses was giving his last instructions to the Israelites, he said they would inherit the land God had promised them by, “Loving the Lord, your God, heeding his voice, and holding fast to him.” (Deut. 30:20) Jesus said, “My sheep hear my voice.” (John 10:27)
I have often allowed the noise of everyday life to drown out God’s voice, but the psalmist says, “Be still and know that I am God.” (Psalm 46:10 NIV) Like Elijah, who went up on Mount Horeb to hear God, he did not hear him in the powerful wind, or the earthquake, or the fire, but in “a tiny whispering sound.” (1 Kings 19:12) God loves to speak to us as a gentle whisper in our thoughts.
Are we listening to the Lord and others, or to our own voice and noise?