Listening is hard work.
“Listening”, and “loving” are words of action. They don’t seem like they should be considered action words because the action both words require, is subtle. They aren’t the kind of verbs that cause us to perspire or be short of breath but, they certainly do require being actively engaged in a relationship where communication is involved. A quote by Henri Nouwen describes listening as hard work.
“To listen is very hard because it asks of us so much interior stability that we no longer need to prove ourselves by speeches, arguments, statements...True listeners no longer have an inner need to make their presence known. They are free to receive, welcome, and accept.”
As we prepared for the Divine Renovation discussion in December, the importance of listening became even clearer to me. At our November meeting it became clear as participants we needed to, focus our December discussion on really listening to the thoughts and feelings of those who attended regarding the reactions to the revelation of the Pennsylvania scandal involving Clergy and Bishops. The conversation on this evening stressed the value of listening and then re-stating what each participant said and heard. During this conversation it was clear how important it was for people’s thoughts and feelings to be heard and the re-stating, really helped us to actively listen.
I know for myself, there are times I am thinking about what I want to say in response and not giving all my attention to listening and hearing. This practice was a great reminder to me.
The practice of listening is necessary in our relationship with Our Father, also. When we spend time in prayer, when we spend time in quiet, it is good practice in increasing our ability to listen to the voice of God. “Prayer is first of all listening to God. It's openness. God is always speaking; he's always doing something.” ~Henri Nouwen
With the busyness of our life in general, and with the distractions readily available to us because of social media it is easy to excuse ourselves form the practice of finding quiet time and listening to the voice of God.
As we develop rules and guidelines for internet usage, and social media for our young people, they frequently say; you don’t understand this because it wasn’t like this when you were kids. And now, when young people say that, it’s really a true statement. The speed at which the Internet has evolved makes the adult experience much different from our young people. With the desire to help parents, grandparents and anyone who knows kids, navigate the new world, the HSA and St benedict’s Youth Ministry are working together to offer a screening of the movie Screenagers. The documentary helps us understand our age of technology and then learn how to work with in this new system of communicating.
As we enter into a very short 4th week of Advent, the season of Christmas, and the coming year, my prayer for all of us is that we continue to grow in the practice of “listening.” I pray that we practice listening better in our relationships and especially in our relationship with Our Father. As we intentionally spend time listening to the voice of Our Father we will know more fully of His love for us, and better discern His desire for us. He will reveal this to us in prayer.
In this season of Hope, and as we make resolutions in the new year, may we let “Loving” and “Listening”, be the words of action that guide us.
Henri Nouwen was a spiritual thinker, a synthesist and one of the first in our time, along with Thomas Merton, to consciously develop a “theology of the heart” and to lay this down as a template for both clergy and lay persons. Henri had an unusual capacity to write about the life of Jesus and the love of God in ways that have inspired countless people to trust God more fully. https://henrinouwen.org/about/about-henri/his-spirituality/