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Open Your Eyes and Listen

Blog / Produced by The High Calling
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Listening is difficult because most of us are too busy speaking. God, on the other hand, listens generously to us, and He listens as we rattle on and on. The 20th century Christian martyr Dietrich Bonhoeffer wrote, “God shows his love for us in not only giving us His Word, but in lending His ear.”*

Our grandson Sam has taught me that we also listen visually. Though Sam was born with severe hearing loss, he quickly learned to observe and astutely associate people with their moods or belongings.

Likewise, we adults are to watch closely for the images and make the connections that underscore God’s messages to us. They are before us in nature, in our individual variety and uniqueness, and in communities. They are there in city sights (and sounds), in the marketplace as well as the wilderness. “Have you seen Jesus, my Lord? He’s here in plain view. Take a look, open your eyes,” wrote songwriter John Fischer. Open your eyes and listen. Wanting to hear the message is important. Again Sam instructs me in how he wants to hear. After his severe hearing loss was diagnosed, he received hearing aids and now eagerly uses his “hearing helpers.” As soon as Sam wakes in the morning or from an afternoon nap, he brings the container that stores his hearing aids to his dad or mom to insert them. Sam allows for the process because he is eager to hear.

An enemy of Sam’s listening is excessive background noise and distractions, because they drown the words he wants to hear. Author Henri Nouwen insisted that the noise of our lives deafens us to hearing our name when it is called. Although we need to listen to the God who constantly speaks, we seldom hear Him in our hurried deafness. Do we allow for the process to hear God? “Speak, Lord, I am your servant, ready to listen,” the young biblical Samuel said.

God calls us to listen to each other and this, too, is hard work. Sam’s hearing and listening require concentration, time, practice. So, too, our listening and hearing require practice—again and again. It is to that powerful, transforming work that Christ calls us. Listening is a ministry. “Be quick to listen,” the disciple James writes. “The first service that one person owes to others in the fellowship,” Bonhoeffer says, “is to listen to them. Just as love for God begins with listening to His Word, so the beginning of love for the brethren is learning to listen to them. So it is His work that we do when we learn to listen to our brother or sister.

"Many people yearn for a listening ear, but find only Christians talking when they should be listening. Yet he who cannot listen to his brother will soon not listen to God. Christians forget that the ministry of listening was committed to them by the Great Listener, whose work they share that we may speak the Word of God." We can be a sacrament of God’s grace—an outward, tangible expression of the inward and invisible listening God.

“Speak Lord, your servant is listening.”


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*Life Together, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, New York: Harper, 1954, p. 97.
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