The Listening Heart of God
- Posted on Oct 7, 2013
Monday Meditation from Mother Martha+—Monday, October 7, 2013
Almighty and everlasting God, you are always more ready to hear than we to pray, and to give more than we either desire or deserve: Pour upon us the abundance of your mercy, forgiving us those things of which our conscience is afraid, and giving us those good things for which we are not worthy to ask, except through the merits and mediation of Jesus Christ our Savior; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. AMEN. Collect for the Sunday closest to October 5
The Listening Heart of God
The Collect of the Day this past Sunday speaks about how God is always more ready to hear than we to pray. This phrase makes me think of God with God’s hand cupped to God’s ear, leaning over towards us, eager to catch every word we offer. Eager to hear our worries, our joys, our questions and more. Jesus’ ministry was all about listening– the blind man by the side of the road, the woman by the well, the rich young man.
On Sunday, I preached about healing conversations and how healing conversations always seem to involve a good deal of listening. In particular, I told a story related by Tom Balles in his book Dancing with Ten Thousand Things. Balles gives an example of a healing conversation:
Years ago while practicing acupuncture in San Francisco, I took a walk around the block with my colleague, Khosrow. I was very dissatisfied with major aspects of my life that morning and Khosrow had noticed that I was particularly vexed. As we set out he simply asked, “What’s going on?” For the rest of our time together I talked and he listened. The depth of his listening allowed me to go deeply into myself to discover what was there. As I spoke I heard my own words echoing back to me. Within 24 hours, I knew that I would be leaving San Francisco. In 45 days, I had moved to the East Coast. (P. 37)
Now, not all our healing conversations lead to dramatic action in 45 days, but the creation of time and space for a conversation to talk about the deep places of faith and wondering in our souls is a great gift in today’s world. It is my hope and the Memorial Vestry’s hope that our Core Vocation dinners these next few Sundays will be those kind of times and spaces. But it is a learning process to learn to listen as God listens. For some of us, it is a life-long practice to be worked on throughout our lives. And the reason is this:
Our world is not a listening-type of world. In our world, vast amounts of information flow into our minds, our sight, our ears, our bodies and especially our souls every single day. We are on information overload. Our minds, bodies and souls are so full of information that we are trained to do the same—to talk when we should listen. We learn to fill the space with words–just as our culture through electronic media re-enforces this message day by day. I know this well, since talking when one should listen is a hazard of the ordained ministry! Clergy hold the floor so much that we don’t know when just to give it a rest.
When I was a camper at my summer camp in Tennessee, we had a rest hour after lunch every day. During that time, we were required to be on our bunk quietly. That meant napping, writing letters, or reading. It did not mean talking to others in our cabin or, now, texting or emailing on an electronic device. As I got into my later teenage years, I loved rest hour. When I returned to camp a couple of summers ago, the first week of rest hour was hard. All the girls were addicted to their electronic devices and had great trouble settling quietly for an hour without speaking their minds electronically.
I’m afraid that we all are subject to this addiction these days and so must learn–especially when we are in conversation with one another—to let there be space between the words. It’s so easy to fill that space with words. Perhaps imagine the face of God leaning over, hand cupped by the ear, eager to hear what each human has to say. Or Jesus, on a dusty Galilean road, stopping to listen. Maybe that is what the Radical Welcome of God is all about….
So, enough of my words. Today, make a promise to listen. And, for good measure, pray this prayer—Lord Jesus, teach me to have a Listening Heart on the road of life this week. Help me always to be willing to create space and time to listen to You and Your beloved people. Amen.
Our next Core Vocation Dinner is this Sunday from 4-6 pm at Earl Huch and Lois Eldred’s home on the topic of Pastoral Care and Spiritual Formation. Join us for space and time to learn how to listen to one another. Watch for the Memorial enews this week for directions.