Listening matters: listening before loving

friendshipEvery time I read the John Fox poem, When someone Deeply Listens To You, I am both undone and healed. I am invited into a new way of being in the world.

In the matters of every day, listening matters.

I confess my deafness to the voice of God, of you and me. If only I listened, I would know. If I listened, I would see. Yet, I am invited into the sacred space where listening becomes a gift of grace.

Deep listening is a sacred gift; it holds your presence in an act of love and being loved, understood, cared for, noticed, valued and healed.

Deep listening lifts the veil to know and to be known; it is a gentle door of opening to the child who sits alone in darkness afraid to go outside to play.

It is an invitation to come home to yourself.

Don’t talk to me about love until you have listened, for listening comes before loving.

Sadly, love has been defiled by far too many words; the sound of resounding gongs and clanging cymbals. In the same way as light is drawn from darkness, so love is conceived by listening.

Listening comes before loving.

Don’t tell me you love me; listen, then I will know you love me!

When Jesus was asked to sum up all of the laws of God into a single sentence he replied:

“‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbour as yourself. ” Matthew 22:36-40 (Dut.6:4 & Lev 19:18)

We are left with the question, “But how Lord, do we love”? Those who listened knew. From the ancient prayer, the Shama, Jesus quoted:

“Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength.” (Dut 6:4)

Listen, O Israel! Listen! Listen with your heart. Listen with your soul. Listen with your strength. Listen, then you will know how to love.

Listening comes before loving; listening loves.

Today, the Church (you and I) is rightly being called to engage in the mission of God.

Yet sadly, mission, too, has been defiled by far too many words; the sound of resounding gongs and clanging cymbals.

We are far too busy. We are far too noisy. In the same way as light is drawn from darkness, love is conceived by listening. May mission start with our silence. May we hold our tongues just long enough to deeply listen? Only then will we be able to hear the still voice of God, the voice of other, and of self.

This act of listening will become an ear of loving.

 A blessing for listening

Hold out your dented cup of silence
and watch it fill with cold, fresh water.
Hush, listen for the one word enough to quench your thirsty soul;
A private ear of listening that breaks your heart new,
A listening grace of presence that gives birth to love.
Save us from this noisy world of resounding gongs and clanging cymbals.
May you listen,
With all your heart,
With all your soul,
And with all your strength.
May listening give birth to loving.

Amen

The Rt Rev Andrew Norton is the Moderator of the Presbyterian Church of Aotearoa New Zealand. This is the third and final reflection in a series of posts titled “Everyday matters” where Andrew considers matters of importance in our daily lives. See earlier posts in the series: Friendship Matters and Being Matters

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