Tuesday, September 23, 2014

How You Listen

"For nothing is hidden that will not be disclosed, nor is anything secret that will not become known and come to light. Then pay attention to how you listen; for to those who have, more will be given; and from those who do not have, even what they seem to have will be taken away." (Luke 8:17-18, NRSV)

Pay attention to how you listen.

I cannot move from this phrase. One that I'd never noticed there before.
I admit, it's got me stuck.

And I'm thinking just maybe I need to get mired down in its weight.
Stay with it.
Let it stick to me.
Don't wash it off or move on too quickly to the next insight.

Pay attention to how you listen, Jesus says.

Pay attention to how you listen, Leah.

How am I listening?
How have I been listening?
Does that need to change?
Why? How?

It's true, since embarking on this most recent phase of my journey--namely, spiritual direction training--I have been learning a new way to listen.

Though I hadn't voiced it in that way. That is, not until I stumbled upon this verse today.

I am learning a new way to listen, for what is said to be heard within me in a new way.

For the words I hear to move from my ears, from my brain, into my heart and soul.

What does that mean?

As a chaplain, my work was that of listening. To be a good chaplain you must be a good listener. I have heard countless people's stories, their confessions and their memories. I have heard their shame and guilt and despair and grief, as well as their joy and hopes and dreams. I have borne witness to joys and sorrows alike.

And, yes, I offered them a safe space and a trusting presence to share so deeply. I held their confidences, and I connected to and empathized with them.

But what I can recognize and admit now is that I did not pay attention to how I was listening.

I had been trained--clinically, professionally, academically--to pick up on patterns in people's stories. I naturally see "the big picture," even when it is at the cost of appreciating the details.

This usually results in me "figuring out" the other person, perhaps before she was finished telling me her story! And, 9 times out of 10, I am right.

Pay attention to how you listen.

I may have had my ears open, but little else. My mind was working feverishly.

If I were to pay attention to how I listened, what would I have found?

Was I listening with an open mind? Not really. An open mind is one that is free from diagnosing, connecting dots, interpreting patterns, labeling and limiting another person.

Was I listening fully? Was I truly freed up to hear another?
Can I stop the noise inside me--however innocent it may be--to be completely present and attentive to another's story?

Was I listening with a slow pace? Not racing to fill in the blanks or thinking about the next steps?

Was I listening for the presence and movements of the Spirit? Or did I cover the Spirit up?

Pay attention to how you listen, Jesus reminds me.

I am learning to listen more fully. To be wide open to what the Spirit may be up to.

The Spirit can catch us by surprise, but not if we are too busy with our presumptions and labels. Not if I have already decided what to hear and what to believe about the other person's story and experience, thus limiting my listening.

Pay attention to how you listen...

To the words of Jesus and the Kingdom truth he proclaimed.

Pay attention to how you listen...

To the story of another, not drawing conclusions and racing to reactions. 

Pay attention to how you listen...

For the words and the activity of the Spirit in your own life.

Release the need to analyze.
Let go of the thoughts that seek to control and drown out the Spirit's call. 


Let the Word wash over you, knock you off your feet, make you rethink all you've previously clung to.
Let the Word surprise and inspire you.
Let your heart and soul be touched by what is beyond words.

Pay attention to how you listen, Jesus urges us.

May I be wide open to receive the Spirit in story and in the present moment. Amen.

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