Devotional: Listening to Understand
One of the things that Josh and I have learned from our time being married is that miscommunication is often the cause of our disagreements. More often than not, when we argue, it is because one of us said something that the other didn’t fully understand. Rather than pause and ask for clarification, our tendency is to take offense which then leads to an argument. As we have grown to see this sin in our lives, we have both sought the Lord and asked Him to help us be slow to anger and quick to listen. As the Lord has worked in our hearts, we have also come to learn that good listening is active, not passive. There are times when we are having a disagreement and I say that I want to listen to Josh, so I sit there quietly while he tells me what is going on in his heart and how he is struggling. I sit quietly as if I am listening, but inside, I am thinking about all of the things that I want to say instead of actually hearing what Josh is saying. From my perspective, things would be fine if he could just see my point of view, so I sit and wait for him to stop talking so I can tell him why he is so wrong, and I am so right.
Clearly, I am a long way from sanctification, but God has been working in my heart to help me see how harmful my inability to listen truly is. In His grace, I have also seen how different a discussion can be when I actually listen to understand instead of listen to simply respond. One of the key components of active listening is asking questions. When I am listening to Josh tell me about what is going on in his heart with a desire to enter into his struggle, my questions come as a natural reaction in order to help me understand him more fully. Not only does this bring clarification to my own eyes, but it shows Josh that I am invested in caring for him. It helps him to know that I love him and want to share in his struggle with compassion, empathy and understanding. Likewise, when Josh does this for me, I feel a deeper connection to him as he shows me that he loves me and wants to understand. It enables me to be vulnerable and open, knowing that I am safely in the presence of one who seeks to enter into my struggle with grace. In that safety and assurance, I find that I am much more receptive to receiving truth than when I feel like I am struggling to be heard.
Although these are things I am learning, I still struggle to implement this mentality when Josh and I face a conflict. I am in constant need of reminding that I am called to put his needs before my own by listening and asking questions. Thankfully, the sermon from Sunday was a wonderful reminder and example of how and why we are called to this kind of service. After my initial review of the scripture reading from Luke 24:13-35, it struck me as odd that when Jesus approached the two people on the road, he asked them questions about what they were thinking and feeling. Afterall, he’s Jesus, He already knew what they were thinking and feeling, so why did He take the time to ask them? But as Pastor Barry said in his sermon on Sunday, Jesus asked these questions because it was His desire to meet them where they were and enter into their struggle; He wanted them to know that it was His desire to understand. The same can be said for us when we ask clarifying questions of those we interact with. Not only does it help us to understand them more fully, but it enables them to feel heard. Through this, we are brought closer together, enabling us to truly share the love of Christ by entering into their struggle with compassion and grace.
As I have come to understand my own desire to be heard, this concept resonates deeply with me and I am overwhelmed with gratitude for the example we have in Christ. In humility and love, He entered into where these people were through listening and pointing them to Himself. When we listen to others by asking questions to understand where they are coming from, they are reassured of our desire to hear them and feel comfortable sharing. In this, we are able to share the truth in love, encouraging them and pointing them to Christ. Brothers and sisters, if like me, you struggle with being quick to speak instead of being quick to listen, ask God to help you follow the example of Christ. By following His example, we are able to love Him, love others, and make disciples.
Photo Credit: Sixteen Miles Out