Listen to me: The art of listening

Isaiah 46--4

The Verse for the Day for September 10, 2016 provides great comfort and strength, as the Word of God speaks from Isaiah 46:4 in the Message Bible:

“Listen to me, family of Jacob, everyone that’s left of the family of Israel. I’ve been carrying you on my back from the day you were born, And I’ll keep on carrying you when you’re old. I’ll be there, bearing you when you’re old and gray. I’ve done it and will keep on doing it, carrying you on my back, saving you.

The opening phrase, “Listen to me,” brings to mind to mind a number of thoughts regarding the distinction between hearing and listening, as I recall a previous blog entry related pointing out the difference between “hearing” and “listening.” These two terms are not synonymous. Hearing is “the process by which sound waves are received on the ear; it is the sense by which sound is perceived.” We hear the ambient sounds that surround us without really paying any attention to the fan on the computer or the air conditioning or the ticking of the clock. On the other hand, listening is the act of interpreting and evaluating what is being said; it is an active activity that involves receiving, deciphering, and perceiving a message with intent to respond.  Hearing is passive, whereas listening should be active. Keith Davis comments, “Hearing is with the ears; listening is with the mind.”                                                                

In Chinese calligraphy, the character for “to listen” consists of pictures of the ear, the eye, and the heart, illustrated in this way:

to-listen

The discussion regarding hearing and listening also brings to mind that listening is an art that is perfected over time by conscious, consistent effort to improve. This is especially true in a spiritual context whereby believers must learn to listen to God. We find that God is always speaking; indeed, God is never not speaking. As we continually place our ears near to the lips of God, we develop our proficiency in listening to hear the Master’s voice, as we practice in order to perfect this art:

 The Art of Listening         

God has something to say to you,

 God has something to say.

 Listen, Listen, Pay close attention.  

 God has something to say.

 Children’s Song

 

The Lord GOD has given me the tongue of the learned,                                                                            That I should know how to speak
A word in season to him who is weary.
He awakens Me morning by morning,
He awakens My ear
To hear as the learned.

The Lord GOD has opened My ear;
And I was not rebellious,
Nor did I turn away.

Isaiah 50:4-5

 

Listen, listen, my son: hear with the inner ear.

Tune your ears to hear in the center of your heart.

I will whisper cherished secrets as you come near.

To listen intently and obey is an art,

Practiced and perfected day by day.

As you hide my Word in the center of your heart,

I perform and bring to pass each word that I say.

In my unfolding Kingdom, you too have a part,

For to walk in love is the more excellent way.

Partake of my promises and consume my Word.

As precious as life-giving water, hold it dear

And do my will, proving all things that you have heard.

Listen intently and obey: Perfect this art.

Listen, listen, my son: hear with the inner ear.

Although I use this poem when I teach the section on listening in the oral communication classes that I teach, quite providentially, I wrote the poem years before I started teaching these classes. When I first read the poem at a Bible study, someone pointed out that at the center of the piece is the word “heart” which encompasses hear, ear, and art, all of which reinforce the message, as illustrated in this remarkable way:

                                                                HEART

HEAR

EAR

ART

H*E*A*R*T

To conclude our discussion, we offer this musical selection by Twila Paris, “I will listen.”

 

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