Learning to Listen with Love

Learning to Listen with Love July 14, 2020

Friends, I’m happy to bring you today’s post, which feels most necessary to my heart today. I trust it’ll be the same for you. Gina Butz, author of Making Peace With Change, has a way of making holy the ordinary, so enter into her thoughts today and enjoy! 

All my life I have gravitated toward activity and noise. I’m more comfortable with talking than listening. There’s a drive in me to be seen, to grab attention through my words. When I talk, I get to control the conversation.

In the last year, I have been blessed to participate in a program of spiritual formation. From the beginning, we were invited to make space to listen-listen to God, listen to our own souls, listen to find out what they want to say to God.

It hasn’t been an easy process for me. If I’m honest, in the beginning, I wasn’t sure what I would hear. The silence required to listen isn’t natural for me. I was afraid I might not hear anything. Maybe I didn’t know how to listen for God’s voice. Even worse, maybe if given the chance, God wouldn’t have anything to say to me.

I was wrong. He just needed to be quiet for a minute so He could speak.

Too often I come to God with an agenda. I think I know what I need to hear from Him. At the least, I think I know what needs to be said. I come with anxious words, thinking I need to get God’s attention on that which matters to me, that maybe my words will fix something, will make something happen.

Learning to make space to hear from God has been a lesson in surrender of that agenda. I can’t really listen if I have one that involves me doing all the talking. That agenda too often stems from a desire to control, to be the one determining the course of my life. I want to control what I hear from Him so I can stay in places that are comfortable.

Listening invites me to release my sticky hands.

It’s also a lesson in love. Do I love God enough to listen? Do I want to hear from Him as much as I want Him to hear me? Listening communicates that I love His presence; I long to hear His voice. It becomes less about communication and more about intimacy, enjoying one another and what we bring.

A phrase that has guided our spiritual formation program is that we are to be “formed to the image of Christ for the sake of others.” That latter part convicts me-my pursuit of God and intimacy with Him doesn’t just shape me; it shapes how I show up with others. I want to show up with love.

As I look at the issues we face in our country and world today, I see how important it is for me to learn to listen. If I can’t listen well to God, how will I listen well to others? I probably won’t. If I don’t learn to listen to the voice of love, how will I be one? I will go to others with my own agendas, determined to keep control of the narrative. I’ll listen halfheartedly, waiting for my turn to speak.

In the conversations I’ve had this year with others, particularly around the issue of race, it’s challenging to enter with a posture that seeks only to listen. I do have an agenda. I want to fight, to fix, to change hearts and minds. There’s a place for that. But too often my words come from an unsettled place, not a place of love. I’m learning to hold my tongue, as I listen with one ear to them and one ear to the Spirit.

The more I learn to listen to God, the easier it feels to release my hold on the outcome of those conversations. I do still hope they will hear my viewpoint. But I’m learning the conversation goes further when I trust in God’s agenda, in His ability to speak to others something my words could never accomplish. As I learn to listen to Him, I hope it shapes me into someone who listens in a way that loves and transforms.

Gina Butz and her husband, Erik, have served in full-time ministry for 25 years, 13 of them in East Asia. They are currently raising their two third culture kids and an imported dog in Orlando, Florida, where Gina serves in global leadership development at Cru headquarters. Her first book, Making Peace with Change: Navigating Life’s Messy Transitions with Honesty and Grace, released February 4th. She blogs at www.ginabutz.com  and loves to connect on Twitter and Facebook.

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