The depth and significance of a relationship will most always be seen in how well the individuals listen to each other.
That was a hard sentence to write because it burns a little in my mind. It immediately stings with conviction that I may often betray the words of my mouth and feelings in my heart that try to maintain the claim that relationships are of such great importance to me. Yet… my genuine listening can so often tell a different story.
I want to be clear that I am not talking about the quality of hearing. I find more and more that I hear that my wife is speaking to me but cannot make out the words she is saying because my ears seem to be aging at a higher rate than some other aspects of my being.
I am talking about deliberate, attentive listening—the kind that takes note of the tone of voice and the posture behind the words, that seeks to recognize if there is some unspeakable need underlying what is being spoken.
As I read through the Scriptures, I see so much about the relational significance of listening. I see God asking questions again and again to give man an opportunity to own our failures and acknowledge our mistakes. I see God reminding his people again and again and again to call out to Him with our needs.
It’s a crucial part of a strong relationship to learn to listen well.
When Jesus was explaining the richness of His relationship with us, He made this parallel of Himself, the Good Shepherd, and us, His sheep:
When he has brought out all his own, he goes before them, and the sheep follow him, for they know his voice.John 10.4
There is something pivotal in the gravity of truly listening.
I know that the whole process of prayer changed mightily for me when I learned to take some time to really listen. I know that the intimacy I feel in my relationship with God seems directly connected to how consistently I give Him the space to really speak to my heart.
I also know that, when I read through the text of 1 Corinthians 13 (the famous “love chapter”) the critical importance of listening. Listening is critical to being patient and utterly necessary for genuine kindness. Rudeness and arrogance are held at bay by truly listening to someone. Listening to another helps us to resist insisting on our own way. It eases irritation and resentment by helping understanding.
The truth is pretty simple. If you love someone, you will listen to them.
Love is a verb—an action word. Listening can, at first glance, seem to be passive. But listening well is an active thing. It is actively seeking to understand what someone is longing for you to know.
I wrote last week of how Love Does Hard Things. But I assure you that one of the most crucial hard things that love does is to listen.
In this season of celebrating love and often over-the-top gestures, don’t forget the fundamentals.
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