I just received a phone call from a telemarketer. However, this telemarketer represented a Christian ministry that was seeking the church to have a fundraiser for their organization. Why was it hard to listen? In this case, this was a repeat phone call in which we had conversations in the past; plus,as in most cases with telemarketers, they hungered for money, or at least a chance to raise money. Even more, they hungered for my or our money; something that is scarce. I heard. I listened, but not with full gusto. Of course, it can be hard to listen to telemarketers, can't it?
Yesterday I was riding my bicycle, when I heard a "hey." The voice sounded familiar, but the yell did not distinguish to whom they were calling, nor from where they were yelling. Was it the voice of the person I knew or not? I had just got home from a long morning of work, and I wanted to ride off some of my stress. If that call was for me, it was from a person who often is "energy sapping" and in which I had just invested much time. The individual possesses a need to talk but does not listen. Thus, in this case, I chose not to listen. I chose not to search hard to determine if that person was calling for me.
Sometimes I am in my office at home, and I hear one of my family members wanting me. I don't always respond and yell, "I'm here." Why not? First of all, I don't appreciate the concept of yelling. I've tried to teach us as family to go and find the person and communicate with them. So many misunderstandings have occurred because we have tried to communicate through walls. Secondly, I might be fully absorbed in a task, and unless it is real important, I don't want to be bothered. Thus, I don't respond unless they walk through the door.
This week I was driving a shuttle bus, and I was listening in part to a conversation going on between two college students. It was not really a conversation, because the one girl had full control of the conversation. She was describing a situation in much detail. She not only described the minute details of the situation but her emotions behind each of these details. Sometimes listening can be so hard for me in those situations. Of course, that is a man's point of view.
In essence, the "noise" of self creates a barrier to listening. Our preoccupation of our own work, of our own needs, of our own desires, of our own background, and so much more, hinders us from truly and fully listening.
Why do I write this? Because I am thinking about my ability to listen lately. I am reading the book of Jeremiah, and he uses the word listen 52 times and the word listened 12 times. Just listen to this passage: "While you were doing all these things, declares the Lord, I spoke to you again and again, but you did not listen; I called you, but you did not answer" (Jeremiah 7:13). The people of Judah were so preoccupied with themselves and the things they were doing (and worshiping), they did not listen to God. God spoke and they did not listen. I bet you some of those people asked, "When did God speak? If God spoke, I definitely would have listened. Are you sure God spoke?" So, as I have been reading Jeremiah and I have had these events occur, I wonder if my heart is ready to listen, or if I am so self-focused lately I cannot hear. (Of course, hearing and listening are two different things.) Have I missed out on what God has been saying, because I am too preoccupied with life? Have I missed out on being used by God? If God yelled "Hey," would I stop and search to find out from where that voice came?
Our self-preoccupation hinders us from listening to people or to God. So, we need to beware and keep our ears open (hearing) and our heart open (listening). We may be missing out on something important.
"He who has ears, let him hear" (Mark 4:9)