"You haven't heard a word I have said."
This was a line in a movie in which a woman comes to the realization that her family isn't 'hearing' her. She had just told her family about a life changing experience, and her husband and two teenage daughters respond with,
"Oh that's nice. Can we go home now? Yeah, I 'm hungry. And I have a date."
They were too busy being centered on themselves, to truly listen to what she was trying to tell them.
And sometimes I wonder if that isn't how it is with us and God. Do we truly listen to what He is telling us? Are our conversations with Him all one sided? Do we hear what He is saying to us, through the Word, and the gentle nudging of the Holy Spirit?
"He that has ears to hear, let him hear."
Jesus says this 6 times in His teachings. Six times! His audience all had ears, but He knew not everyone who was hearing His words was actually listening to those words.
So what is the difference between hearing and listening? And how does one go from merely hearing to listening. Let me share a story that helped me understand.
Recently my husband went to have his hearing tested to see if newer more technologically advanced hearing aids would help him. I watched him as he sat in the sound room, and was subjected to a series of sounds and words. I watched as he continued to shake his head, "No, I can't hear anything", or "No I can't distinguish that word." The look on his face was heartbreaking to me. The audiologist informed me that he had 75% hearing loss in one hear and about 60% in the other. Tears began to well in my eyes, as I was anticipating there was nothing that could be done. His hearing loss, in spite of having some hearing aids, was really a barrier to our communication and understanding within our marriage, our family and with others. So I was bracing for the worst, and thinking about strategies that we could use to overcome this communication barrier.
Then the audiologist reached into a cabinet, took out two tiny little hearing aids, and with a wink said to me, "Watch this."
You know those "Ah-ha" moments that we all experience, and have seen others experience, the moment when the metaphorical light bulb finally turns on? Can you picture the accompanying excitement that comes with those moments of understanding. That is what I saw in my husband's face. He could hear those sounds! And words! And me! Even when I stood behind him and spoke in a normal tone. He could hear the rustle of leaves, and the buzzing of an insect. Several times he commented, " Man, that is so loud." I'ld never heard him say that before!
So now he was hearing, but then the audiologist talked to him about developing his ability to listen and distinguish sound.
He told him that by wearing those hearing aids all the time, (something he had not done with his older ones), he would be re-establishing neural pathways, much like exercising an unused muscle. The audiologist explained that hearing is just bringing sound in, the real connection comes when the brain receives, interprets and applies the meaning of the sound. Through practice, by wearing those hearing aids all the time, he would actually improve his capacity to listen and distinguish sound.
So what is the difference between hearing and listening? Hearing is just sound waves connecting with our cochlea, sending the impulses to our brain. Listening is receiving, interpreting, and applying the sound to our life.
So when Jesus tells all us of who have ears to hear, I don't think He is saying to simply bring the Word of God to our brain. He is telling us to listen. Listening is a choice; it is a conscious choice to receive the Word in our heart, interpret it's meaning, and apply that Word to our life.
I don't know about you, but I don't just want to hear. I don't just want the knowledge of God's word in my brain, and the ability to quote umpteen dozen scriptures. I see people who know God's word forward and backward, yet seem to be lacking the peace and joy in their life that Jesus want's His disciples to have. So, hearing or having the knowledge is not enough. I want to listen to God's word, asking the Holy Spirit to convict me of those things that I really need to apply within, so that the Word can do it's work to transform me.
One other thing the audiologist told us was the importance of wearing those hearing aids in very quiet moments, like when sitting all alone reading. He said it was the ability to listen to quiet sounds that would vastly improve those neural pathways of hearing in the brain.
Likewise, if we are going to really hear God today, to listen to what He is telling us through the Word, we have got to be still and quiet, reflective and meditative. If we don't do this, we will find that the loudness of this world will numb our ability to hear. It happens physically when one listens or is subject to really loud noises. Sensitive nerve endings in the ears get damaged, and soon our sense of hearing is dull. I believe this also happens spiritually, when we become so saturated with the noise of this world. What we are saturated with, what we hear the most, is what influences us, it becomes the guiding force of our life.
It takes discipline to stop the noise, and be in stillness. Psalms 46:10 reminds us of that, Be STILL and know that I am God.
Choose to be still and LISTEN to Him. Turn off the radio, CD, Pandora, or your play list as your drive. Take those ear buds out of your ears when you run or walk. Turn off the TV or whatever background noise you have around you, and just listen.
You just might be amazed at what you hear. There is so much He wants to tell us, if we would but listen.