The Art and Benefit of Listening

I am a talker.  I love to chat away.  I like to listen alright, but I’d rather be the speaker than the listener.  I think that’s one reason my college roomie and I got along so well.  She’s a really good listener.  I like that quality in people.

If there’s on thing I’ve learned in my profession, though, it’s that listening is critical.  So I’ve had to learn the art of listening.  Some days it’s really hard for me.  I’ve learned that listening is critical in helping people, but more than that, I’ve learned that listening is critical to my personal transformation. Listening reminds me that I don’t know it all, and that others have great wisdom, perspective, and stories.

I’ve been practicing my listening skills a lot lately.  My job is to work with families, and I work with a lot of parents whose native language is not English.  When I speak with them, I have to listen carefully so that I don’t miss what they are communicating.  I work a lot with Spanish-speaking caregivers, and since I speak Spanish but my Spanish is B- at best, I really have to work at listening.  This won’t come as a shock, but my spoken Spanish skills are stronger than my Spanish comprehension.

I’ve also been practicing my listening skills when I visit my grandmother.  She has lost a great deal of weight, and her dentures don’t fit quite right, so the loose dentures combined with her weakened voice, mean that I need to strain to understand her at times.  My grandmother has a new roommate, too, who is suffering with speech impairment, so I really have to focus when she speaks so that I am clear about what she is saying.

On Saturday, when I visited with my grandmother and her roommate, I was glad that I listened, because through her strained speech, my grandmother’s sweet roommate spoke some deeply needed encouragement to me.  She spoke some things that I know God needed me to hear.  I surely didn’t walk into my visit with my grandmother expecting for her roommate to challenge me, but isn’t that often how God shows up… completely unexpectedly…  if we’re listening?

If I hadn’t been listening, if I had shrugged off her roommate, if I had decided that it wasn’t worth my effort to hear her out, if I had lost patience, I would have missed God.

How many times do I do that?  How often do I chatter away, or get caught up in my agenda and miss out?

I’ve been thinking about Samuel (1 Samuel 3), who wasn’t expecting to hear God, but in the midst of normal life, God speaks.

This week, I have been challenged to listen for God in unexpected places.  What about you?  Have you heard God speak when you weren’t expecting it?  Are you listening for Him?

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