the battle of listening

Sometimes, we're a lot better at doing than listening.

In my case, by sometimes, I mean virtually all the time.

Listening is a skill. It takes time, effort, and practice.

In one of my counseling classes yesterday, we talked about listening and the immense value and care we can give someone by simply listening to her/him. We talked about the breakdown in time - in a 60 minute session, we should allow the counselee to talk for virtually 45-50 minutes. Then we might offer some encouragement, truth, and hope.

My thoughts went here - "But isn't that person coming to me for help? Doesn't she want hope and direction? Is that really enough time to shed light on the situation? Wait a second…this is what I do with God SO often!"

I don't know if you can relate, but I have often found myself giving God a mini catch-up session of the day before, thanking Him for all the different good things in my life, praying through the hard things, reciting promises, reading the Word, and moving on. Using up all our time together with my own talking and doing. But within the last couple of months, the Lord has challenged my task-oriented approach to spending time with Him. Take Me out of that box, He tells me.

Starting in March, my prayer (rather inconsistently, I might add) for myself as a counselor has been this:

"The Sovereign LORD has given me an instructed tongue, to know the word that sustains the weary. He wakens me morning by morning, wakens my ear to listen like one being taught. The Sovereign LORD has opened my ears, and I have not been rebellious; I have not drawn back." Isaiah 50:4-5

How can I presume to be a good counselor or friend if I have not listened and learned from the Lord? There are lots of reasons why we fail to listen - we want to talk, or we are too busy, too consumed with other things, struggling with passivity, with fear, with pride, with apathy, with insecurities, with simply not knowing how. I have certainly fit into every single one of these categories. And I'm sure there are more. But I want to encourage you, whatever it is that is keeping you from listening to the Lord, the One who made you, the One who knows you better than you know yourself, the One who wrote His Word so that you might find life's sweetest joy in knowing Him, I plead with you - whatever it is - confess it and repent from it. Ask the Lord for grace and help in this area. You will not be put to shame.

[listening & the Word go hand in hand - God will not reveal something or guide you somewhere or promise you something contrary to His Word - being immersed in His Word is 100% essential if we are to listen well]

I have learned SO much by simply listening. It's not easy, and I confess, I don't do this all the time. But I am so refreshed, so delighted, so hope-filled, and so secure when I do intentionally take the time to stop all my jabbering/busying/doing to just be with and enjoy the Lord and listen to Him. In this listening time (sometimes set and intentional, other times just being sensitive to the Spirit's leading - this is something I pray for), the Lord usually brings Scripture to mind to convict or encourage, reveals areas of sin in my life, loves on me anew, or simply makes me ponder Him.

That last part is my favorite. In this season, I have said, "You are God" more than ever. Because He has called me to wonder over Him and who He is, when I proclaim this truth, SO much is being said. It's a statement of surrender. He is God; I am not. It's a statement of trust. He is God - He is in control; I am not. He is sovereign and faithful. It's a statement of hope. He is God - therefore, He is fully capable of saving and renewing and freeing and redeeming. It's a statement of freedom for me. It's acknowledging the reality of my situation and of this world. It's a statement causing humility in my heart. It's a cry of worship. When I can't find the words to say to express my awe of Him, the Spirit settles my heart and gives me these words: You are God.

The three biggest insights/commands the Lord has given me recently are these:
1. Commune with Me
2. Do not move on from Me
3. Lift up

Last night, as I was making some journals for the shop, looking up verses, "doing" if you will, the Lord made me to listen. Because "lift up" has been something on my heart lately (sooo much I'd love to share on this - another time), the Lord led me to look up Psalm 121. I had a choice, I could keep on going with my journals and other crafts, or I could stop and listen. Praise the Lord, He led me to obedience! I rejoice, because trust me, it truly is a battle for me to stop and be obedient when something seems "more important."

Learning the sweet joy and utmost importance of listening.

Here is a glimpse of that time:

I will. By Faith. Lift up my eyes - from my circumstances. 
My help does not come from me.
I will quickly weary with anxiety & exhaustion if my help depends on my strength.
I am finite. 
I am weak.
I am an earthen vessel.
I will lift up mine eyes unto the hills, from whence cometh my help.
My help cometh from the LORD - 
That should be enough said.
But you, my Maker, promise more.
You. PROMISE. More. 
My feet stand upon the solid Rock. You carry me.
You never grow weak or weary.
You never tire of being God.
You never change. You are faithful.
You are my Keeper.