As Christ’s disciples, we will sooner or later find echoing within our hearts the same question Jesus posed to the twelve in Mark 8:18: “Do you have ears and fail to hear?” The kind of hearing that Jesus desires of all disciples is a listening that proceeds from a heart characterized by receptivity rather than selectivity, freedom rather than fear, a heart that has been broken and is becoming compassionate.
All of Jesus’ teaching can perhaps be summed up in His instruction to listen to and obey the voice of Love. Jesus’ life was a life of loving obedience. He was always listening to the Father, always attentive to His voice, always alert for His directions. Jesus was “all ear.” That is true prayer: being all ear for God.
Listening is a choice we make to attend to and truly hear what is going on around us. It takes patience and practice. We learn to listen with three ears: one for the other person we are with, a second for God, and a third for ourself. This was no small challenge for me, but over the years it has become a single, integrated attending to all of life around me; a contemplative response that seeks to listen to Love. I have discovered that the sound of Love is all around me if I but listen. And that, as I listen to God in all of life, all of living becomes prayer.
Listening in love begins with vulnerability. Vulnerability means we peel away our own mask and begin leading from our weakness. Having embraced our own pain, we then become the “wounded healer” for the other.
The second quality of a good listener is deep acceptance. Acceptance comes very close to agape-love. Agape is the kind of love that does not try to shape the other person into its own mold. It accepts the other just as that person is. It meets people where they are.
The third quality of a good listener is expectancy. Expectancy has to do with hopefulness. It is the capacity to awaken in other people their own potential to receive the Light, to be healed. Above everything, it confirms what is deepest in the other person, arousing hope within them.
A good listener has the ability to “stay with” another. This takes infinite patience. We must listen intensely without interrupting with “Oh, you mean…” We really don’t know what someone means. We want to feel where their words come from.
Communication has many levels, and we want to reach the deepest of them. Within every exchange there is more than the speaker and the hearer. There is also the Eternal Listener. God is there. When we really listen, we become aware of His Presence with us. And in deep communion with Him, we begin listening others into the Eternal Listener’s Presence.
Perhaps this is the single greatest desire of the human heart: to listen attentively to the voice of God speaking through the joys and sorrows of the seasons of each soul.~Betty
With gratitude to Sally Chester for the beautiful image of Betty