Have you ever thought about your ears? How are they shaped and what makes them actually work? If you google “ear”, you get about 107,000,000 results.
The ear is primarily thought to be an organ used to detect sound. And that’s true, but it’s also vital in the role of balance and body position. It’s so much more than the weird, fleshy part made of cartilage that is almost impossible to draw on a piece of paper. The ear is a auditory system within your head. There’s these three bones : a hammer, a stirrup, and an anvil, and then there are little hairs, tubes, canals, membranes, drums…it’s quite complex.
If you’ve ever had ear problems, you know how nice it is to have your ears work. Because when they don’t work, you lose your balance or you annoy your roommate by saying “huh?” and “pardon?” every 5 minutes. When they don’t work, either there’s an annoying ringing, an intense pain, or a dull, quietness to others’ voices.
I’m glad I have ears. And I’m glad they work. There’s quite possibly nothing better than being able to hear. This last week, I’ve heard some pretty stellar sounds. My little niece telling me she loves me. Over a hundred college kids singing praises to God. The skid loader finally clearing out the snow in the parking lot. The song, ‘Where I Land’ by JJ Heller. I’m so thankful I can hear.
I was always told that God gave me only 1 mouth and 2 ears for a reason–it’s more important to listen. And all my friends that have gone through premarital counseling say effective communication revolves around listening to the other person.
But listening is different than hearing. When I was in 7th grade my English teacher, Mrs. Havranek, taught me about the difference. We were taking a quiz late in the spring, when a huge truck quickly drove by the school on the highway. The entire class turned in their desks to look through the opened window. I, however, ignored the noise and continued working on my quiz. Mrs. Havranek proceeded to lecture (in the middle of the quiz) the difference between hearing and listening. She said you hear many different things throughout the day, but you need to choose what you listen to. Listening is a conscious decision.
This life is noisy. We hear sounds all throughout the day, some encouraging, some annoying, some loud, some quiet. But do we actually listen? We hear our phone ring, we hear our friend talking on the other end, but do we listen? If you’re thinking about the next thing to say, you’re not really listening.
It’s similar to our quiet time with God. I’m the kind of person that loves noise. Whether it’s a fan, Pandora radio, or Dan in Real Life playing in the background, I like noise. Silence bothers me. Silence makes me uncomfortable. So naturally, during my quiet time, I like to fill the silence with noise. Songs, prayers, thoughts…I rarely sit still and shut my mouth. I don’t think I’m alone.
Awhile ago, my brother-in-law suggested I read a book called, “When God is Silent” by Barbara Brown Taylor. And so I read it. This book has impacted the way I think about listening, silence, and God.
“Even now, some Christians have trouble listening to God. Many of us prefer to speak. Our corporate prayers are punctuated with phrases such as “Hear us, Lord” or “Lord, hear our prayer,” as if the burden to listen were on God and not us. We name our concerns, giving God suggestions on what to do about them. What reversal of power might occur if we turned the process around, naming our concerns and asking God to tell us what to do about them? Sometimes I think we do all the talking because we are afraid God won’t. Or, conversely, that God will. Either way, staying preoccupied with our own words seems a safer bet than opening ourselves up either to God’s silence or God’s speech, both of which have the power to undo us.” (pg 50-51)
What if we turned off the TV, logged out of Pandora radio, turned our phone on silent and just listened? What if we made a conscious decision to actually listen to our friends, instead of just hear them? What if our quiet time began encompassing time for silence and meditation? What if what we heard changed us? What if?