I didn’t want it to be this one. I had another one in mind that would have been less challenging and yet still engaging. The other one would focus on loving others, which is a noble goal, and secretly, I took comfort in the fact that it would require less vulnerability on my part, always a rumination for one who struggles with being authentic. For several days I conversed with God and tried to convince Him my thoughts were worth His consideration. In the end, He, of course won. So, my word for this year is listen. After pondering and praying over a few others, I seemed to be drawn back to the word listen.
In the first several days of the year, I heard this word a few times. I dismissed it, pretty much convinced it was the other word the Lord wanted me to focus on in 2021. But I kept hearing it. And seeing it. And reading it. I began a new book, and within the first pages the admonition was there to “listen carefully to what you hear.” This statement was in reference to listening to others. On the next page I read, “Listening to that voice with great inner attentiveness…” which referred to listening to God. I picked up a magazine in the airport, and the first article I read was 5 Ways to Be a Good Listener.
This year I want to learn to be a better listener to my friends and those in my sphere of influence. I want them to feel valued and heard as they share their stories. I want to listen with a heart to understand, and not an agenda that includes having all the right answers.
And I want to be a better listener to Jesus. This morning, I read in Life of the Beloved, that Henri Nouwen believes “the real work of prayer is to become silent and listen to His voice…” It’s not the easy work of prayer. My desire is to spend time just listening. I long to sit and begin my prayer time invoking the Holy Spirit with a mere seven words: “Speak Lord, for your servant is listening.”
I think most of us agree talking is the simplest part of any conversation. Whether to Jesus or to others, talking doesn’t take a lot of effort. We seem rather skilled at the gift of gab. And we deceive ourselves into thinking whatever we have to say is really important. I’m reminded of a quote I heard that suggests a wise man is one who has a lot to say…and says nothing. Listening, on the other hand, takes great discipline and effort.
This year the Lord is calling me to listen. Oh, Lord, may I learn to listen well.