But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves.
My daughter’s teacher just finished reading Charlotte’s Web to her first grade class and my girl came home with one important question about the book.
“Mom,” she said as she climbed in my lap, “there’s something I just don’t understand about it.”
I prepared to offer deep words of wisdom to whatever philosophical question she posed. Why did the spider have to die? What made Charlotte and Wilbur such good friends? Why was Wilbur worth saving? Why did only some of Charlotte’s babies stay in the barn after they hatched?
Why aren’t we vegetarians?
Instead, she asked, “Why does the goose talk that way?”
Hmmm. Surely, the mama goose in Charlotte’s Web does have a particular speech pattern. She never says anything once. When the animals are debating hotly over what new word Charlotte the spider needs to spin into her web in order to save Wilbur the pig’s life, the goose suggests, “terrific, terrific, terrific.”
Because one “terrific” is never enough.
And how should an ordinary barn spider spell such a large vocabulary word?
According to the goose, it’s, “T double-E double-R double-R double-I double-F double-I double C, C, C!” (E.B.White, Charlotte’s Web).
At first, when my daughter asked me to explain why someone would talk so funny, I mumbled something about how people talk in different ways and everyone is unique, something that sounded intellectual enough to impress her and qualify me for “Wise Mom of the Year.”
Later that night, though, I listened to the way I talked to my kids and had a life-changing epiphany.
The goose always repeated everything she said because . . . she was a mom. Perhaps she had been repeating herself to her goslings so long, she began to talk that way perpetually.
Yes, I myself find that I don’t ever get to say anything once. Usually it takes three times before my children even realize I’m talking. So, typically my announcements sound something like this:
Time to brush your teeth.
Okay, it’s really time to brush your teeth!!!!!
TIME TO BRUSH YOUR TEETH!!!!!!!!!!
By the time I’ve tripled my statement, my middle girl finally looks up from the couch and wonders why I’m in her face with my voice raised (usually holding her chin so she’s forced to make eye contact with me).
It’s not that I’m prone to yell or enjoy being loud or even generally live with the volume turned up.
It’s that unless I’m loud, she’s not listening.
By the time I’ve reached my third repeat, my middle daughter always looks surprised and excuses her lack of obedience by saying, “Oh, I didn’t hear you.”
To which I explain that my voice trumps all other voices and all other noise. The moment she hears my voice making any sound at all, she needs to focus on what I’m saying, which requires her to stop looking at the TV, cease listening to her music, put down the book, and pause for a moment while playing with her toys.
This has all made me wonder whether God ever has to combat my own inattentiveness with repetitive messages and some volume-raising.
Is that what He’s doing when I hear the same lesson from every radio preacher, sermon, Sunday School lesson, Bible Study chapter, and devotional reading? Is that what He’s doing when He escalates His discipline in my life, all because I’ve tuned out initial warnings and overlooked His initially gentle correction?
Does this happen because we’re not listening? And if it does, then the challenge to us is to focus on His voice immediately, turning away from all other sources of noise, every life distraction, every demand of busyness, and responding with Samuel’s, ” Speak, Lord, for your servant hears” (1 Samuel 3:9).
Ultimately, though, this isn’t just about our ears sensing the ripples of God’s voice or even our mind evaluating the sound waves and forming the complex audio signals into words.
It’s not enough to hear. It’s not so much whether or not my daughter hears me the first time I declare that teeth brushing should commence. The issue is whether or not she bounces up from the couch, walks to the bathroom, squeezes the toothpaste onto the toothbrush and actually brushes her teeth the moment she hears my command.
This is what matters to God, as well. This is why when God gave His people the commandments, He said, “Hear therefore, O Israel, and be careful to do them“ (Deut. 6:3, ESV).
Even more significant is the fact that the Hebrew word most often translated as “obey” in Scripture is “shema,” or “hear” (Walking in the Dust of Rabbi Jesus by Lois Tverberg, p. 29).
Since “hear” and “obey” are generally the same word in Hebrew, Tverberg says “to hear is to do, to be obedient” (p.29) God expected them to be the one and the same action—we hear/we obey. It’s as simple as that.
So, when Jesus sounded a little like the Charlotte’s Web goose whenever He made one of His favorite announcements: “He who has ears to hear, let him hear,” what He really was saying was:
“If you hear what I’m saying, then obey it, do it, live it, put it into practice”
(Matthew 11:15, Luke 8:8, Matt. 13:43, Mark 4:9, Luke 14:35).
I once heard a college friend pray, “Please teach me gently, Lord. Don’t bruise me.” Oh, how I have prayed this same prayer!!! None of us seek out God’s discipline or firm hand of correction or even the raising of His voice when we decline to listen.
Yet, if we desire God’s gentleness, His loving guidance, His soft hand resting on our shoulder, then we must live a responsive life.
Our spirits discerning. Our hearts receptive. Our lives obedient. This is how we respond to God, moving gently and without resistance to His instruction just as a blade of grass shifting with the wind. God speaks. We listen. We obey. As simple as that.
You can read other devotionals on this topic here:
Heather King is a wife, mom, Bible Study teacher, writer for www.myfrienddebbie.com and worship leader. Most importantly, she is a Christ follower with a desire to help others apply the Bible to everyday life with all its mess, noise, and busyness. To read more devotionals by Heather King, click here.
Copyright © 2012 Heather King