Read: 1 Peter 3:12; Psalm 116:2; 1 John 5:14-15
This is the time of year when my husband and I begin to figure out what little gifts we might give to our friends and family members for Christmas. In fact, we chose the first one this week. The problem is that it is often difficult to find just the right gift. Consider a monetary gift. Most everyone can use a bit of money to spend as seems good to them; however, some folks find money to be impersonal. Consider a gift card. It is very thoughtful; however, a large percentage of these go unused or decline in value. Consider chocolate. Yum; however, I know some people who don't really care for it. What's up with that? Some even have allergies to it. Consider clothing. Thoughtful for sure; however, some people choose clothes that, shall we say, don't fit our particular tastes. On it goes. Is there not a perfect gift? This week, I heard of one that most people, if not everyone, would love to receive and it can be regifted without anyone's feelings being hurt. May I share a short story of its being given?
I was listening to a speaker. I can't recall her name. She was speaking about small things we can do to make a difference in the lives of others. That's when she talked about the gift. The gift of listening. One day, she had gone to the coffee shop with a friend. Her friend had ordered an elaborate coffee. The kind with several specific ingredients. The speaker was paying close attention. Listening with purpose. She put the ingredient list for her friend's coffee into her phone with the thought of surprising her with it on a day when she might well need something special. That day did come. A very hard day for her friend, and the speaker surprised her with her favorite hot drink. Her friend wondered how in the world she knew all that was in that special coffee. Her response was that she had listened and made a note of it. That kind of attentiveness says something to those with whom we interact. It says that we care and that we are beginning to know them. Isn't that a gift that people, no matter their age or stage in life, long to receive?
I had a second reminder of this important truth this morning. I was listening to an interview about a hotline that reaches out to farmers and ranchers in five states. So many are going through hard times due to weather related problems and face struggles specific to those who serve in farming and ranching. I was sad to hear of the high suicide rate among these hard-working folks. The interviewer asked how those who receive the calls can help those who are hurting? Her response was that they listen. She said that many feel isolated and alone, and that's where the listening comes in as of first importance.
As much as I love these earthly reminders, I find it even sweeter that we serve a God Who listens when we talk with Him, Psalm 116:2. Imagine it. God is spoken of in that verse as bending down to listen. Words we can understand as we think of our own interaction with precious little ones. We get close to listen out of love for them. God does that even though He is well aware of what we will say. Even if He has heard our petitions 100 times. In 1John 5:14-15, we are reminded that He hears and will act according to His will. We are welcome at His throne of grace where we will always find One Who sympathizes with us in our times of need, Hebrews 4:14-16, and Peter reminds us that His ears our open to our cries, 1 Peter 3:12.
This week, England's new king, Charles III began his reign. People are wondering if he will be a more accessible monarch. Only time will tell, but he did shake hands and interact with those who had come to honor him. A king interacting with the people. Noteworthy; however, what God has done is much sweeter. Jesus not only interacted with us, He became one of us, John 1:14. So when we do approach Him, we know we have a King Who experienced everything that we do here on earth. Our God is not aloof or unconcerned. That makes His listening even sweeter. He truly understands, and His eyes don't glaze over when we talk with Him.
I'm thankful that the gift of listening is one that we can both give and receive. We can ask for the Holy Spirit to give us ears like Jesus that hear the one who is talking. As I thought about this, I remembered that we don't only listen face to face. Technology affords us the opportunities to listen through e-mail or text. Perhaps this is the most difficult listening because it is easy to skim over words and maybe miss something that might be important. Thankfully, the Holy Spirit can help us to be attentive even when we are listening with the aid of these mediums.
Lord, Help us to never take for granted the fact that You listen when we speak with You. You delight in our prayers, Proverbs 15:8. Show us how to be attentive to the persons You put into our lives. Help us to listen with Your joyful attentiveness.