Listening versus Hearing



If we could go to SBF every week just to hear Chris’s pearls of wisdom it would be more than worth the journey to Central Saanich. As it was, we also got to sit under her ministry of music- a double blessing. During the service, the distinction between listening and hearing was brought home to me once again. I can’t remember the name of the fellow who spoke- whether I didn’t hear or listen to his name is a manner of some debate….however, I do remember the bulk of what he said. The intentionality of my listening ensured that. How often do I hear things without passing the same sound bytes through the filter of my reasoning? To listen requires me to enter into a relationship, a dialogue with the words that are being spoken. A lot of what I hear from day to day “goes in one ear and passes out the other”. And yet we are warned against the dangers of becoming ‘dull of heart’, unable to hear and respond to the words of God. More is said about what we listen to and about what we say, than what we see. In fact, despite “seeing” many miracles after the exodus from Egypt, the Israelites were lead astray by what they “heard” from the mouths of Moses’ detractors. We are told that ‘death and life are in the power of the tongue’, and ‘he who has ears to hear, let him hear what the Spirit is saying’. At the very beginning of creation, the first man and woman “heard the voice of the LORD God”. The “Shema”, the prayer most fundamental to the Jews of Jesus’ time, and of ours, begins with “Hear O Israel…”. Hear, listen, understand, and know in the very depth of your being- for to do so is to remember. The LORD is our God, the LORD is one. To listen is more than just passively allowing sound waves to pass over receptors that in turn set off a cascade of electrical impulses and chemical reactions. To listen is only one half of the equation- the other half demands a process, a response from the listener. When Samuel heard the voice of the LORD, he responded “Hineni- hear am I”, and “speak, for your servant is listening”. The Shema begins with “Hear”..and goes on to demand “and thou shalt love the LORD thy God…”. Listen and do. I find it fascinating, but not at all surprising, that the best forms of learning involve active involvement rather than just passive hearing. May we be doers of His word, and not hearers only, for then we will know that we have really listened- when our lives are transformed and our fruit is eaten.

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