the power of listening

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“A wise little owl” written and illustrated by Jennifer Rae.
Used by permission.

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What if I were to tell you that I wanted to sit down with you with the sole purpose of listening to you? No hidden agendas, no ulterior motives, no stated or unstated goals - I simply wanted to listen. Like really listen. I wouldn’t be distracted or hurried or judgmental. I would just listen. Maybe I’d ask some questions, maybe I’d share a few ideas, but mainly, I would just be quiet and still and turn my attention completely to you and what you wanted to share. I would want you to feel heard.

Does this sound rare? A little more like a dream than anyone’s actual reality? Somehow it seems in today’s world, listening like this is a precious commodity. It’s something that people rarely do for us (unless we pay them to do it professionally) and we don’t regularly do for others. And yet, there is a very real power within this simple practice of listening that I believe cannot be attained in any other way.

In my life, I have experienced tremendous encouragement and growth through people who have listened to me. Throughout my growing-up years and into adulthood, my mom has listened countless times as I have processed big and small things in my life. My husband also faithfully listens, as well as close friends, colleagues and other mentors over the years. There was a particularly challenging season in which I had a life coach who I would talk with on a regular basis, and looking back I think one of the most powerful parts of my conversations with her was simply the time and space she provided to listen and ask good questions.**

Time and space. These are two things that are needed for authentic listening to happen, and they are two things that almost never happen on their own. Well, to clarify - they do happen, but they are constantly getting filled up with things other than listening. If I am not careful, I will keep rushing from one thing to the next and never take time to pause and be still. Still enough to be silent and listen. But when I do take that time, I never regret it and I almost always feel refreshed by it.

Listening to God is certainly a mysterious thing that I don’t think I will ever completely understand. But what I know is that just like there is power in people listening to me, and there is power in me listening to people, there is power in being still and allowing my soul and spirit to listen. God may not give me some huge revelation or even any kind of distinct message. But things change within me when I listen. And I think they change for the better.

Dan Rather, CBS television interviewer, asked Mother Teresa of Calcutta: “When you pray, what do you say to God?”
Teresa: “I don’t say anything, I listen.”
Rather: “Well okay … when God speaks to you, then, what does he say?”
Teresa: “He doesn’t say anything. He listens. … And if you don’t understand that, I can’t explain it to you.”

Pray with me…
…. that all of us in the BCS community will grow into more authentic listeners
Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to become angry. James 1:19

…. that as the leaders of BCS take time to listen, they will hear what God is saying
Whoever has ears, let them hear what the Spirit says to the churches. Revelation 2:29

…. that wisdom would be heard and applied throughout the BCS community
Turning your ear to wisdom and applying your heart to understanding. Proverbs 2:2

Soli Deo Gloria
To God alone be the glory

~ Carrie Warner, BCS Prayer Team Coordinator

**For some other great thoughts on the power of listening, check out Emily P. Freeman’s podcast, especially episodes 33 and 94.