This past Sunday I was getting ready for morning worship by performing my normal routine. There is not enough space behind my ear to hold my glasses, my hearing aid and my microphone, so I remove my hearing aid and replace it with my microphone head set. It occurred to me that I was removing my ability to hear in order that I might speak. That action reminded me that the inability to listen in order to be heard, is a common hindrance to ministry.
I was always been taught that we have two ears and one mouth and that was God’s way of saying that we should listen twice as much as we speak. It is true that listening to another (and to God) is a discipline and necessity for a Christ-like spirit. Too often we listen to figure out what to say or what advice to give. We can listen long enough to interject a thought of our own. We can stop listening because we assume what another will say. We can also tune out another’s voice for the purpose of coming up with a better example, story, funny line, or worse circumstance. None of these scenarios is as appropriate as intently listening in order to understand.
Jesus was traveling to Jericho when a blind man called to him. The blind man came to Jesus and it would have been easy for the Lord to assume that he wanted to be healed. Maybe in omniscience he knew that the man wanted to see. But Jesus asked him a question and listened for the answer.
“What do you want me to do for you?” Jesus asked him. The blind man said, “Rabbi, I want to see.” – Mark 10:51
I had a gentleman come to the door of the church one-day. He wore a long, worn out military coat. His gray hair was disheveled and it had been some time since it was washed. He had not shaved and there were black smudges on his face. I just knew he was looking for food or money. I asked him, “How can I help you?” He responded, “I have written and illustrated a children’s book and I wonder if I can make a copy so that both of my grandchildren could have it.” Sure enough, from his long coat he pulled a pristine set of pages with drawings and a story about the little cloud that cried. I could not have been more surprised.
I’m so glad that I did not offer this gentleman the assistance that I assumed he was looking for. What a powerful moment that encounter remains for me, as a reminder of the importance of listening. There are those that God will put on your path who need you to hear them. They may need you to pray for them, but you will have to listen to know how to pray. They may need to be connected to God, but you will have to listen to know how to introduce them. They made need tangible assistance or direction, but you will have to listen to know how or what to share with them. The key in our interaction with others as the Lord’s ambassadors is listening.
Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger – James 1:19
These days the culture is full of those who are quick to speak, quick to assume, quick to give advice, or quick to post or tweet. We must be of a different nature. Let us be quick to hear and slow to speak. Let us be willing to take the time and effort to understand. Let us build a reputation for being those who are good listeners. Rather than prepare for the day by removing our hearing aid to wear a microphone, let’s turn up the hearing aids and put the microphone away.