Several weeks ago I had one of those dreaded mommy meltdowns. You know, the kind that is a result of when you have told your child a very basic simple command repeatedly and no action follows. My young children often hear what I say, but sometimes struggle with listening; and that difference is huge. Hearing by definition is simply the ability to perceive sound with the ear; which, unless you have a medical disability, each of us can do. But listening, listening is different, isn’t it? When one listens, they heed and obey instructions. One of the webster definitions says to listen is to wait attentively for a sound.
This meltdown moment happened on a morning that is far too familiar in our home. The kids had left a trail of granola wrappers and several abandoned toys on the living room floor. I called each of them down, looked them in the eye and politely asked them to throw away the trash and take the toys back upstairs. They all nodded in agreement and quickly ran a few hyper circles around the living room and kitchen with the toys they “found.” Within minutes they abandoned those same toys in the middle of the floor a few feet away,
I yelled from the kitchen, “You guys, I said take these toys back upstairs! Come on!” Two of the four kids returned with mischievous smiles as they grabbed the toys and then again took off running. But, they still didn’t listen. About an hour later I found the same toys in my master bedroom, and honestly, I just lost it.
I sat the kids down with my mean mommy face, and began an angry, loud, and frustrated lecture, “YOU HAVE TO LISTEN TO ME! WHEN I TELL YOU TO DO SOMETHING, IT’S NOT A SUGGESTION. YOU NEED TO STOP, AND DO IT. DO YOU UNDERSTAND?” As I raged their heads shook with understanding and the sweetest little “yes ma’am’s” emerged from their surprised little faces.
And the strangest thing happened, as the frustrated lecture flew without restraint from my mouth, God whispered to my heart. It’s something I can’t forget, because in the heat of my hotheaded frustration, God taught me a profound spiritual lesson. Isn’t what my kids just demonstrated what I sometimes do? Treat God’s explicit commands as suggestions? I hear His instructions (by reading the word of God daily) but often, I don’t truly listen to them.
And in that moment, the possibility occurred to me that at times God is equally frustrated with me. As I considered this, I grieved; not because I fear God, but because I love Him. I don’t fear His explosive anger or harsh punishments, for His character is unwavering; He’s slow to anger and quick to forgive (verse). But because I love Him, I want to please Him. I want to be a child that He is delighted with.
So I considered the words, the instruction I had just minutes ago given to my kids, and I knew God was instructing me in a very specific way. As Christians we sometimes make our obedience to God such a complex endeavor when it really is not nearly as mysterious as we believe it to be. This year I am again reading through the Bible and every morning when I spend time in the Word, there are instructions and lessons to be learned, some more subtly given through an OT or NT story, others are more command'ish like Proverbs. But every day, every time I open the Word, there is something to do. Not just something to hear, but something to listen to.
Listening requires being intentional, it requires discipline, and the skill of listening is one that usually develops with the maturity of a child. As you and I spiritually mature God expects our listening skills to be reflective of our growth. So how do we practically do this on a daily basis? There are several ways one can practice the skill; accountability, journaling, proverb of the day, etc. But for me, a very simple practice method is to write in the margin of my Bible the listening points. I write the lesson that I am needing to sticky note to my heart from the passage. It takes just a few extra minutes, but it leaves a paper trail of where and what God is speaking to my heart.
God is pleased when believers don’t just hear, but listen attentively. What is God speaking to you this week, and, more importantly have you listened?