Yesterday, I heard a prompt from the Holy Spirit. It wasn’t on a major issue but it was wise advice that if received and heeded my day would have gone better.
By the end of the day, I wished the Holy Spirit would have yelled. But does God yell? Should He yell? Does yelling even work? Was the problem with Him or with me?
Listening has become a great focus of mine over the last several years. Personally, I have been a talker most my life. I see now how damaging it has been to exercise my mouth more than my ears. I have robbed others and missed my own learning.
I have been going through the book of Acts and see the role of listening is everywhere. The early Christian community was active in waiting and listening, waiting, and then acting on their prompts. I need that experience.
I also noticed that the “world” has the louder ones–evil spirits shrieking out truth but in a wrong way, bad leaders breathing out threats to Christians, shrieking mobs that need to be quieted, or the constant barrage of distorted messages. (Kinda sounds like our times!)
How can I be a person who listens, learns and does what I am taught be God.
Sometimes I wonder how the Holy Spirit decides what volume to use on us. He has to have some volume. Why is the still small voice more effective? Why not just blast the words and ideas and truth into people ears so. Maybe, like a good classroom teacher, He knows the act of learning starts by leaning into the words, lives and heart of others. Maybe he knows its based on the truth: “A person convinced against his will is of the same opinion still.”
I don’t deny that at times the Holy Spirit’s work is intense–when Ananias and Sapphira drop dead for lying against the Holy Spirit; when Saul is confronted on the road to Damascus, but we don’t see yelling.
I guess I should be learning something from that technique for my own listening and also for the way I teach.
In Acts 27, when Paul is at the lowest status-a prisoner stuck on a boat he can’t control–the call to listen gets quietly but profoundly strong:
“So Paul warned them, “Men, I can see that our voyage is going to be disastrous and bring great loss to ship and cargo, and to our own lives also.”
But the “decision makers” didn’t listen to Paul. They listened to the owner, the pilot and weather and sailed on….into disaster.
Paul later chides them for not listening to him but, in his gracious way, reassures them that if they NOW listened and obeyed, despite their past poor choices and a shredded ship, the people would not be lost.
Edgar Schein’s Humble Inquiry: The Gentile Art of Asking Instead of Telling has helped me see the need to have a “receiving” spirit toward others. Asking prompts our curiosity more and draws our will away from our ruts of thinking and believing and seeks new tracks to think in. It activates our pre-frontal cortex and invites us to the judgment process, which is more about listening then talking. Judgmental processes seek to speak before they hear. Judgment listens first and foremost and then and only then speaks.
There-in is the challenge of the Holy Spirit and church community. How can bull-headed, self-absorbed and fixated minds be drawn off their rutted thinking into better understanding?
Paul describes us all: “who suppress the truth by their wickedness, since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them…. so that people are without excuse…but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened. Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools… Therefore God gave them over in the sinful desires of their hearts ….They exchanged the truth about God for a lie, and worshiped and served created things rather than the Creator—who is forever praised. Amen.”
One of Paul’s last warnings (Acts 28:25-28) is about this issue: “The Holy Spirit spoke the truth to your ancestors when he said through Isaiah the prophet:
“‘Go to this people and say,
“You will be ever hearing but never understanding;
you will be ever seeing but never perceiving.”
For this people’s heart has become calloused;
they hardly hear with their ears,
and they have closed their eyes.
Otherwise they might see with their eyes,
hear with their ears,
understand with their hearts
and turn, and I would heal them.’
“Therefore I want you to know that God’s salvation has been sent to the Gentiles, and they will listen!”
Prayer: Oh, gentle Holy Spirit. Forgive me for not hearing your soft counsel to me . I know you still stayed with me and I eventually heard and heeded, but oh, how much better to heed the still small voice then to have to shipwreck so badly. As Andy Stanley reminds me, let me heed the guardrails of life you have created to hear, know, and follow your words.