Silence

 

“Remember, before you speak, it is necessary to listen,” Mother Theresa

Tape Face

Arguments. Gossip. Hostility. Name-calling. Contempt. All this occurs in an atmosphere of wanting to be right, of not listening, of refusing to be slow enough to speak in order that we hear and learn. This kind of talking does nothing but stroke our own ego.

He then called the crowd together and said, “Listen, and take this to heart. It’s not what you swallow that pollutes your life, but what you vomit up.” (Matthew 15:11)

How can we, in a climate of division and mistrust, practice the skill of taking a step back in order to arrive at a willingness to listen? And not just listen to form a reply, but listen with the intent of understanding.

This kind of listening accomplishes several things.

  1. It helps us widen our own narrow perception of reality
  2. It helps us form relationships
  3. It helps us understand the experiences, history and hurts of other people
  4. If we are Christians, it helps unify us with our brothers and sisters in Christ
  5. It allows us to hear the voice of God through the Holy Spirit

Of course, we must desire to step back from anger, practice thinking before speaking, prefer to find common ground, and aspire to approach people with openness and compassion. If we don’t, then we simply choose to reject, condemn and despise.

As we stay silent and think – seriously consider our words before we speak, weigh the consequences of our words on others, take time to evaluate the words of others, and reflect on how words that float on social media have an effect on you and the children you know – we begin to form conclusions driven by more than our momentary and sometimes incendiary reactions to an event.

We are able to respond in a way that includes listening to understand.

So faith comes from hearing the message, and the message heard is what Christ spoke. (Romans 10:17)

We are able and willing to widen our perspective to see another point of view. We are able and willing to have compassion for the experiences of people unlike ourselves. We are able and willing to seek common ground and thus solutions, instead of blame. We are able and willing to find unity with our brothers and sisters in Christ. And finally, we are able and willing to hear the blessing of God’s voice.

“In silence we will find new energy and true unity. Unity is the fruit of prayer, of humility, of love…We cannot find God in noise or agitation… In silence He listens to us; in silence He speaks to our souls. In silence we are granted the privilege of listening to His voice.” Mother Teresa

 

Mother Teresa quotes from No Greater Love, ©1997, New World Library, MJF Books, NY, NY

Listen, Hear and Experience

Sermon on the Mount

From one CSF (Church Set Free) member to another to me, thinking on Jesus, meditating on Scripture, I picked up on one that swirled around in one member’s head and a comment someone else made: “To ‘hear’ was to ‘believe’ and to ‘believe’ was to ‘experience.’ This is how community spreads wisdom and support and love. Thank you, Paul and Don.

Jesus began his Sermon on the Mount by waiting for his followers to listen.

Seeing the crowds, Jesus went up on the mountainside; and when he had sat down, his disciples came to him. Matthew 5:1

As a former elementary school teacher, I always identify with this verse.

I would look out at my charges, a bit rowdy, having just followed me into the classroom from recess, yet anxious to learn. It was important to settle them, get their attention, because I was going to teach them something they hadn’t heard before, a new concept.

Often, instead of standing in front of the class to lecture them, I would walk over to the carpeted area, filled with comfortable pillows. It was a quiet nook, an alcove they knew was special. It was a place where they could nestle in and listen to my words.

As I sat in an old rocker, the room became quiet. They would wait in anticipation as I signaled them over, section by section. They padded over with soft steps, taking a pillow, voices nearly inaudible, while the others arrived. When I spoke, it was in a low voice. They paid attention, wanting to hear every word.

Because they listened and heard, they experienced the lessons at a deeper level. They thirsted to know, and caught on quickly. When it was time to undertake the lesson, they worked in pairs or trios and helped each other with the assignment. Application and community.

“But to you who are listening I say: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you.” Luke 6:27-28

When will we, as rowdy, reactive adults, slow down long enough to settle in and listen? When will we quiet our voices, opinions and feelings of entitlement long enough to truly hear? When will we allow ourselves to experience the message of Jesus at a deeper level?

When will we surrender ourselves to apply his words and create community instead of division?

How long will it take for us to listen to His words, really hear them, and experience how wide, how long, how high and how deep God’s love is? (Ephesians 3:18)

How long?