Choosing to love by choosing to listen

Psalm 116-2

My daughter didn’t talk for a long time.

Oh, she understood everything I said and communicated in lots of other ways, but she just refused to really, truly talk as a toddler.

Then one day she opened up with a tidal wave of language.  She didn’t learn how to talk one tentative, uncertain word at a time.

She just talked.  It was as if she’d been storing up years of language until she could express anything and everything she felt.

And now….

Now, she’s a talker.

She wakes up in the morning talking.  She leaves for school talking.  She climbs into the minivan after school still talking.

We live with a steady stream of conversation from the first “good morning” to the final “goodnight.”

I love to watch her face and her hands.  She throws every part of her body into what she’s saying.

Her head bobs and her hands fly to her hips as she says, “Really!  I did that.”

She arches her eyebrows.  She scrunches up her nose.  She’s a non-stop flow of enthusiastic communication.

My introvert self sometimes recoils from conversation.  Sometimes I’m bound to slink away where it’s quiet, even if it means hiding in the corners of my own mind and ignoring the noise around me.

I have an insatiable need for nonverbal time.

Besides that, I’m a task person more than a people-person.  I think tasks.  I do tasks.  I complete tasks.  And sometimes I let those tasks take priority over people because I’m mixed-up that way and this is the pit of sin I fall in over and over.

So a few weeks ago when this little girl would sidle up to me ready to chat, chat, chat, I started turning my whole body toward her so she could see my face.

I put down the book.

I closed the computer.

I  left the dinner on the stove to simmer so I could listen to her.

Sometimes, life is a whirlwind of crazy in my house.  There are moments when it’s not possible for me to flip off the activity so I can flip on my listening ears.

So, I tell her that.  I say, “Give me five minutes.  Let me finish this and then I can listen.”

Then I keep my promise.

I don’t know if she can feel the difference between the distracted me and the attentive me, but someone once told me, “Listening is an act of love.”

And I choose to love her in the way that her soul needs to be loved.

I learn this, but I never seem to master it. Could any of us?

Could we ever get to the place where we’re experts at loving through patient and compassionate listening?

Yet, God does this for us.  He bends low to hear our cries, leaning into us so He hears our every word and our every heart’s cry.

Because he bends down to listen, I will pray as long as I have breath! (Psalm 116:2)

More than that, He quiets the noise of heaven at the sound of our prayers.

In his book, The Great House of God, Max Lucado highlights the volume of heaven based on the first eight chapters of Revelation:

The angels speak. The thunder booms.  The living creatures chant, ‘Holy, holy, holy” (4:8) and the elders worship…The souls of the martyrs cry out (6:10)…The earth quakes and the stars fall…One hundred forty-four thousand people…shout in a  loud voice (7:10).

Heaven is louder than my house in that mad rush through our after school routine of homework and piano and change your clothes quickly for dance lessons and make dinner and pack lunches and sign agendas and rush out the door (hurry, so we won’t be late!).

Heaven is louder than my minivan.

But,

When He opened the seventh seal, there was silence in heaven for about half an hour (Revelation 8:1 HCSB).

Half an hour of total heavenly silence ticks by.  In the quiet, an angel steps up with:

…a large amount of incense to offer with the prayers of all the saints on the gold altar in front of the throne. The smoke of the incense, with the prayers of the saints, went up in the presence of God from the angel’s hand (Revelation 8:3-4).

The prayers of the saints enter God’s presence in the hush of heaven.

The way I listen to my kids, my husband, my friends should be how I want to be listened to….should be how God listens to us.

He bends down to us.

He quiets the noise.

He gives us access to His presence.

How can we be better listeners for those around us today?