How to Be a Better Listener to God and Others
Recently, I was forced to sit still and listen—really listen.
My husband invited me to come along with him to a small island where he goes once a year to do some maintenance work for a private oceanfront resort. For several years, he’s suggested I go with him because he thought I’d enjoy photographing the pristine scenery. Each year, I gave an excuse not to go. Some reasons were good, but the truth is, I was afraid of the boat ride we’d need to go on to get there. Visions of ocean whirlpools danced in my head and reminded me of a terrifying experience I had many years ago.
I witnessed a close friend almost get pulled down a waterfall as we struggled to paddle our kayaks through tidal rapids.
I enjoy being a landlubber. I don’t like the idea of my husband and me sinking at the same time. What would happen to our daughter if we both drowned? Well…actually…she’s old enough to survive without us. But I still didn’t want to risk it.
So I said I’d think about it.
In the meantime, I read in a marriage book or blog article (?–I can’t remember where because I’m reading several books at a time; naughty me.) that the best way to encourage an introvert to talk more is to listen more. The book or article suggested waiting five seconds after a person says something. Often, the so-called quiet person will begin speaking again, adding more depth and details to what they’ve already said.
The next time my husband brought up the idea of me going with him to the secluded island, I listened closely and waited. And sure enough, he had more to say. He ended up telling me how important it was to share this experience with him. It’s not that he pressured me, I saw a keenness for closeness because this time I really listened.
Several days later, the caretaker of the resort drove us in the—according to him—unsinkable boat (apparently the previous caretaker had turned it over twice and survived). We enjoyed the breathtaking scenery of snow-capped mountains, rugged rocky shorelines, and eagles galore that gilded the day with God’s glorious handiwork.
The weather was sunny and mild. And so were the moods of all aboard the… Unsinkable.
I clicked pictures as the caretaker chatted to the contractors riding along with us. He shared stories of horrific storms he’d witnessed. He described how one day he came around a corner to discover waves so tall he had to pull back and wait until things calmed down.
Until then, my fear factor lay low because the weather showed no signs of causing havoc. But memories of boating through waves big enough to sink my hope rose from the depths of my past and floated around me as eerily as a Red Snapper I’d once caught; its swim bladder bulged out of its mouth like a gruesome monster.
I glanced at the sky…
…all was well.
Suddenly, the boat struggled to stay straight as we hit a patch of whirlpools and rolling waves.
One of the contractors warned me to hang on tight during this section of the journey. All I could think was: How on earth does anyone guide their boat through this on a rough weather day?
After we got through the bumpy section, the rest of the ride went smoothly. Ah…but I still looked forward to walking around on land again. Maybe, I’d even give the rocky shoreline a kiss or two.
Bald eagles greeted us as we arrived at our destination. I claimed a spot on the beach and photographed everything around me.
Soon, the incoming tide churned the waters and brought fish to the surface. A frenzy of birds flew in from the surrounding cedar, alder, and fir trees. Eagles swooped down to the ocean surface and snagged fish with their powerful talons. The excited feeding fowl contrasted with a nearby seal serenely lounging in the shallows. We eyed each other momentarily and then he submerged and disappeared.
Later, when slack tide pulled the bumpy sea taut like a freshly made bed, all the fury of the feathered ones settled down. So I dug out my Streams in the Desert devotional book and read from where I’d left off the day before.
Clouds gathered in the sky above me while I poured over the page. We were late because one of the contractors ran into problems, and a float plane was sent to pick up replacement parts for him.
Time dragged by, and I gave God more than the five seconds of waiting I’d given my husband as I chose to embrace this bonus time alone with the Creator of all the beauty around me. I thanked Him for the chance to witness more eagles than I’d seen in one place before.
I thanked Him for the kindness of the caretaker and his wife for providing a hot and delicious soup and sandwich for us. I thanked Him for a husband who wanted to spend time with me. I thanked Him that I said, “Yes” to this adventure.
I chose to trust that whatever happened in the skies, God would help us weather the storms we experienced in our lives.
God spoke more to me in those moments than I’d allowed Him to during all of the previous week. My forced time of stillness revealed my lack of being still before Him when I’m at home. I realized I often hear God and then run with what I’ve heard instead of waiting for five more seconds. God has so much more He wants to speak into our hearts.
In Psalm 46:10 NIV God says:
“Be still, and know that I am God…”
In my stillness, He spoke love, encouragement, and joy as I sat stranded—so to speak—on the shoreline. He reminded me He doesn’t change. He’s an ocean I can sail on without fear of tides ripping me off my feet and drowning me in despair.
He’s our hope and our help.
In Revelation 4:20 NIV Jesus says:
“Here I am! I stand at the door and knock.
If anyone hears my voice and opens the door,
I will come in and eat with him, and he with me.”
Opening the door of our heart for five seconds longer is a short investment. Really listening to God and really listening to our loved ones is worth the intimacy it affords.
Do you rush in the hush of your quiet time—or do you really listen?
I’d like to close with a short poem and a video of the Bald Eagles fishing:
Open my ears to really hear
You’re the God of hope and help
Open my eyes to realize
You’re the God who does things well.
Five More Second’s Blessings ~ Wendy xo
Have you read my Five Ways to Fan the Flames of Faith?
Click on the following link to read the first post of the series on my other blog: Part 1.
And the audio versions are available on HopeStreamRadio: Walking with Hope