I am not the best listener. I could be way worse, but I really struggle to listen well. I realize this most, when I’m in the presence of a very good listener. You know, those saints – the ones that you can tell are really listening.
Asking God to help me be a better listener, I realized my motive for requesting this skill/treasurable attribute. I want to be a better listener so others will think and say “Wow. Jenn is a really good listener.” Not that that is an entirely terrible motive, but it’s way less about actually developing the skill of listening and more about appearing as if I am listening.
The best gifts shared with the world are ones that stem from a natural overflow of God’s work in our own lives. When we recognize we have matured as a result of allowing God space to refine our character, the forced drudgery of “doing the right thing” or “being the right way,” disappears.
As the Psalmist remarks, “My cup overflows.” Paul prays that, “the grace of the one man, Jesus Christ, overflow to the many,” that we, “may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.” (Romans) Overflow is an excess of what is already streaming from a source. Ever notice how things can overflow because we aren’t paying attention? I keep pouring the coffee when my mug is full. I forget to turn off the faucet and arrived shocked at the spill.
After a meeting the other day someone complimented me, “You are so good, you are just able to do ___________ really well.” (Don’t want to incriminate my awesomeness. Kidding. The what is just totally irrelevant.) The irony was I hadn’t noticed that I had developed this new skill. I responded with, “I’m pretty sure no one I have ever worked with would have said that about me.” I wondered, “When did this happen?” And now I’m wondering, how can I fill in the above blank with the word “listen” one day?
I’ve shared before about how difficult but extremely possible life change can be, and about how often we recognize God’s work in retrospect. This was the case once again. As I reflected on some possible paths that helped me acquire this compliment, I realized it was from God chipping away at some particular fears and concerns in my life…for years…chipping away slowly for years.
There is a scene in Evan Almighty where Morgan Freeman (playing God) hears a prayer from the wife/mom in the movie. He inquires, “When we ask God for patience, does he give us patience, or more opportunities to be patient?” and he continues listing sought after characteristics, challenging the way we typically request God’s intervention. That twist in how we view God’s interaction is what I need for my “I want to be a better listener,” moment.
When I can overcome my concern with how I am seen, I actually want to be a better listener because I think people deserve to be listened too. That seems like a much better starting point for God to step in and begin the next round of chipping away for years and years and years.
Take a moment, just pause to think about some old habits or former responses, ways you used to react, or maybe things that used to drive you crazy but just don’t any more. Can you see how God was pouring in, investing, working on you? Be on the lookout for the overflow of God’s movement in your life. And check back with me in a few years and ask, “Has anyone mentioned you are a great listener?”