I've spent most of my life dealing with the feeling that no one really listened to me or wanted to hear what I had to say. For a talker, that's tough! Mind you, I have a BIG voice that can be heard across the campus, but I've always had the feeling that I am just loud. My volume and talkativeness isn't something I embraced - I cringed at this "gift" because it always seemed to be much more of a curse than a blessing. People tend to think that talkative people like to talk....sometimes it's not that they LIKE to talk, they just can't seem to help themselves! Even in writing this blog, I often chastise myself with, "what makes you think you have anything worth writing about? No one really cares what you think."
The other day, however, it occurred to me that someone DOES care. God cares. He actually stops and listens to me. The New Living Translation of Psalm 116:2 says it this way: "Because he bends down to listen, I will pray as long as I have breath!" Wow! You mean, God actually WANTS to hear what I have to say?
As I thought about this, I remembered a time many years ago when we had guest pastor Tommy Barnett visit our church. There were literally hundreds of people at that service, and at one point I was thrilled to find myself standing in front of this man of God with a moment to talk to him. What happened next totally floored me. He stopped and listened. No, I mean REALLY stopped and listened. He focused on my eyes and I could sense that I had his undivided attention at that moment. It didn't matter that hundreds of people swirled around us or that probably every one of those people wanted a moment of this man's time. For that moment in time, he was listening to ME.
I remember walking away from that encounter thinking, "This must be what it was like to talk to Jesus...He really listens."
My mind is on prayer this month...not that I don't pray every day, but for some reason the topic of prayer has really captured me right now. I am praying for our nation, for my students, for my family, even for my own health. I spend my "spare" time listening or reading more about prayer. It was in the midst of all of this that I ran across something that made me realize - God actually hears...make that LISTENS to my prayers. He isn't guilty of doing what I sometimes do with my own children - looking like I'm listening but my mind is actually tangled with all that I have to get done that day. He isn't doing like my students do when they "look" like they are paying attention but their minds are a million miles away. He is doing more like what Tommy Barnett did that night after a service - He is FOCUSED on me.
I think of the way my husband demonstrates love to me by the way he listens. He actually turns off the tv and faces me when I tell him about my day. What a beautiful picture of Christ and His bride. He seems to understand that, often, all I really want is to be heard.
I don't pretend to understand how God can focus on my prayers and those of millions of others at the same time...but He does. I'm also not saying He necessarily does what I ask. It's not like the child in the mall who screams and pitches a fit and the parent bends to conform to the will of the spoiled child...no, it's not that He changes to suit me - but He listens. He hears. He cares.
And often, when I finally stop talking, God speaks. Do I listen in return? Do I have a conversation, or do I just talk? Do I forget that what I have to say isn't nearly as important as what He has to say? Am I focusing in on His voice, or do I say my words and then become spiritually ADD and start chasing every squirrel that comes into view? (This so reminds me of my own son who talks constantly but never waits for a response. He can change subjects almost mid-sentence.)
In the world today, we may feel like we don't have "a voice", but we do. God not only hears - He LISTENS. He LEANS in. He LOVES. The one thing He never does, is leave. I guess the question is, will I focus in on HIM and what He says in return?
Psalm 66:19 (NIV)
but God has surely listened and has heard my prayer.
The Message (MSG)
6-7 Don’t fret or worry. Instead of worrying, pray. Let petitions and praises shape your worries into prayers, letting God know your concerns. Before you know it, a sense of God’s wholeness, everything coming together for good, will come and settle you down. It’s wonderful what happens when Christ displaces worry at the center of your life.