"What He ordains for us each moment is what is most holy, best, and most divine for us." Jean-Pierre de Caussade

Thursday, February 13, 2014

The Art of Listening

I almost missed my cue to give the intro to the doxology.  The pastor had given the benediction yet my eye was still fixed on the man across the sanctuary in the third row when I realized the final amen had been spoken. To be honest, I had been watching the parishioner intently throughout the entire service.  From where I sat at the piano, I had a direct view. And even during the sermon, I was situated such that I could turn my head only slightly and observe this one who had so captured my attention. It's not that I had never seen him; but this day, I was so drawn.

You see, Mr. Gerald is blind.

Each Sunday, an elder goes and gets Mr. Gerald from home and brings him and his seeing eye dog to worship. And then when it's over, the same elder returns him to his home. I don't know too much about the man other than his dog's name, how long he has had him, and that when I asked him if he had a favorite hymn, he just smiled and said, "All of them," ... though he does like Standing on the Promises.

But observation tells me something more. Mr. Gerald is a listener.

The first thing Mr. Gerald does after sitting down and settling his dog is remove his hat. He then takes the posture of listening and remains there for the next hour. He doesn't squirm. He doesn't twitch his head. He doesn't slouch. He sits straight, leaning slightly forward with his hands unclasped in his lap, his legs uncrossed and his face forward. Only one time did I ever see him move and that was when the pastor instructed us to "raise your head and receive this benediction." Ever so slightly did I see Mr. Gerald's chin lift to do just that.

There's no fidgeting, checking his watch, doodling or playing with his hair. Yes, Mr. Gerald is a listener.

What if I listened with the same intensity of Mr. Gerald? What would I hear if I tuned my ear to listen to every musical note played, every inflection in the voice spoken, every move of the people about me? What would I hear if I truly listened to the Scripture, that place where God reveals Himself to us so intimately, being read in my presence? Would I hear the voice of God in any of it?

The art of listening. I'm afraid we may have lost it in our busy world. A world that is always, always, always shouting ... BLARING! ... at us. A world that makes it hard to listen. To be silent. Then again maybe it's just because we don't slow down long enough to listen because we are afraid we won't hear anything at all, and that's worse than all the noise. Therefore, we don't assume, take on, the position of a listener ... like Mr. Gerald. 

Trappist Monk Thomas Merton wrote in his book Thoughts in Solitude, "My life is listening, His is speaking. My salvation is to hear and respond. For this, my life must be silent. Hence, my silence is my salvation."

Yes, God is still speaking. Are we still listening? Or have we lost the art?

Just an ordinary moment...

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