One of the wisest professors I’ve ever had, Walter Muelder, often advised us to “listen for the question behind the question.” He considered deep listening to be a primary key to his success as a teacher, pastor, and leader. Even when we would have gladly hung on every word he spoke, his answers always began with silence as he reflected on what he had heard from us, what questions were being raised behind the questions we had spoken aloud, and what he was hearing from God’s Holy Spirit. Often, he would pause even before beginning a classroom lecture, as if he was listening before he began speaking. Such deep listening is rarely seen in our world, and I have always thought that his pauses brought more wisdom than his many years of study. Both Proverbs 1:20-33 and James 3:1-12 point to the wisdom that can be gained by listening. For Wisdom herself is crying to be heard—both then and now. God’s wisdom is always present for us to notice, but unless we make time and space to notice, we may completely miss the offered gift. A child’s wide-eyed stare at the first snowfall of winter, or silent wonderment as the brightest leaf falls spiraling to the ground can remind us to stop and notice the wonder of creation. This is wisdom, calling us to listen. When the worries of the world consume us, when the pace of life overwhelms us, or when our troubles and tribulations frighten us, we may miss God’s presence and Wisdom’s call. When we start talking fast and furious without pausing to listen, we may miss the word we most need to hear. Worse, we may even harm those we most intend to love. How often has a word spoken too quickly ruined a moment or even a relationship? On the other hand, how often has a long pause calmed us down and restored a cherished relationship. Make time to listen. Pause before speaking. Notice the wonder of God’s presence. For in the listening, there is wisdom. In the pause, there is power. In the noticing, the presence of God can unveil the wisdom and guidance that will enrich our days, improve our lives, and strengthen our ability to live Christ’s call to the fullest.
Want to know more? Please join us October 23-25 for Growing Communities of Love Live. We're spending an entire day, October 23, focused on the power of listening as a foundation for growing your church by listening to God, one another, and your neighbors.