Learning to Listen Again

A zoologist was walking down a busy city street with a friend. In the midst of the honking horns and screeching tires, he exclaimed to his friend,
"Listen to that cricket!"

The friend looked at the zoologist in astonishment and said, "You hear a cricket in the middle of all this noise and confusion?"

Without a word, the zoologist reached into his pocket, took out a coin, and flipped it into the air. As it clinked on the sidewalk, a dozen heads turned in response.

The zoologist said quietly to his friend, "We hear what we listen for."

It is an old story, retold many times, but it still contains much truth, and perhaps increasingly so in our current context. Whether we recognize it or not, we all tend to listen for certain sounds. Certain voices capture our attention.

Sometimes that can be a positive thing. So it is that a mother hears the sound of her child’s voice in a room filled with crying babies. So it is that a trained athlete hears the voice of her coach even when thousands of people are yelling and cheering. So it is that the spiritually sensitive person hears God’s voice even in a world filled with noise of every imaginable kind.

The problem today is that the noise grows louder and louder all around us. Politicians try to outshout one another, assuming that the one who makes the most noise has won the day. Those who want to sell us their products grow ever more creative in drawing our attention and earning our support. Those with particular causes to promote become so passionate in their language and their approach that they sometimes make it difficult for us to offer our own quiet “no.”

It is not always easy to hear God’s voice in the midst of an increasingly noisy world. That is why listening has become a particularly important spiritual discipline. Listening is both a gift and a skill, something that must be learned and relearned.

So how do we learn to listen for God’s voice in times like this? A few thoughts come to mind. First, make room for silence. As difficult as it may be, find quiet places in your life where you can listen for God’s still small voice.

Second, listen for voices that challenge you, that cause you to think. Read magazines from a variety of theological perspectives. Listen to sermons that do more than simply confirm your theological bias. Make it your practice to listen for those voices that tend not to make it onto your radar screen.

Third, pray, frequently and regularly. Pray both alone and in the company of others. Shared prayer is one of the best ways to listen for the voice of God.

The zoologist was right. We hear what we listen for. What are you hearing these days?

Dan Holloway

Pinnacle Associate