Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Living with Lewis: Listening

I am a bad listener. I try not to be. I do try quite hard to be a good listener- for my friends, my family. I’ve actually become quite good at sitting quietly, empathizing, sympathizing, throwing in a nod or a murmur of agreement. And really, I’ve become a pretty good listener. Sure, I’m guilty of plotting out my own answer sometimes, or day-dreaming, or getting distracted by someone walking by. But overall, I’m a pretty good listener when it comes to people.
But when it comes to God….that’s a different story. It’s so hard for me to just sit, to be quiet, and listen. I’m terrible at even finding the time. And when he doesn’t speak right away, I get so frustrated. I don’t even give him the chance to start speaking half the time.
And when something is going wrong in my life….forget listening. Usually I’m either shutting God out completely, because I’m pretty pissed off. Or I’m yelling at him, also because I’m pissed off. I have far too much to say or not say to him to actually sit and listen. And because I don’t listen, I don’t hear anything from him, which makes me angrier, perpetuating this vicious cycle that usually continues until God finally steps in and strands me some place where I can’t help but listen to him, or just waits until I’m too exhausted to continue ranting and he can finally speak. And slowly, everything is restored.
So, going back to CS Lewis and A Grief Observed, I was kind of relieved to find that I wasn’t the only one with this problem:
“And so, perhaps, with God. I have gradually been coming to feel that the door is no longer shut and bolted. Was it my own frantic need that slammed it in my face? The time when there is nothing at all in your soul except a cry for help may be just the time when God can’t give it. You are like the drowning man who can’t be helped because he clutches and grabs. Perhaps your own reiterated cries deafen you to the voice you hoped to hear.
On the other hand, ‘Knock and it shall be opened.’ But does knocking mean hammering and kicking the door like a maniac? And there’s also “To him that hath shall be given.’ After all, you must have a capacity to receive, or even omnipotence can’t give. Perhaps your own passion temporarily destroys the capacity.” (64-65)
I think that God tells us to be still, to not fear, to wait, to quiet our souls for a good reason. In our panic, our anger, our anguish, our passion, our grief, we often focus far too much attention on our own pain and problems. We are too distracted to hear that still small voice. Our demanding drowns out all else. But when we turn, even just for a moment, from ourselves, and truly look for him (not to rail or rant, but to listen)….then He can speak.

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