April 18, 2018
“Are You Listening?”
4who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. 2 Corinthians 1:4
I have a confession to make. If you tell me something today, I may forget it to tomorrow, or at least part of it. On discovering that, you may ask, “Were you even listening?” My answer would be, “Yes, I was.” (See next paragraph). Don’t confuse bad memory tomorrow with lack of listening today. Another confession: I even forget most of what I say. I know that is true, because when someone tells me, “I remember when you said in your sermon yesterday….” I think, “That’s good, because I sure don’t.” Recently, a church member told me, “I remember what you said a few weeks ago and I have been sharing that with others.” I had no memory of that either. The down side is that you will have to remind me what I said, and what you said. The upside is that any confessions are confidential. After absolution, I won’t remember them. Neither does God remember them, though with Him it is entirely due to pure grace, not a mental lapse.
Now, why do I say, “Yes I was listening” even when later I can’t remember what you said? Because listening is not always about being a human tape recorder, though sometimes, it must be that in order to do a proper follow up or take requested action. But often the proof of my listening is simply that you were talking freely, confidently, openly, and honestly. If you did that, then I was listening. If you thought at the time that I was not listening, you would have pulled in, shared little, and thus not received the benefit of unburdening yourself of whatever you were carrying at the time of the conversation. Whenever you received feedback that comforted, clarified, or helped you gain perspective, then the one hearing you really listened at the time you were speaking.
All the above applies to how we converse with each other. It means we can’t expect people to remember everything we said, for who can, but we can expect and give the gift of listening in the present. Such a gift duplicates the gift God gives when we pray. Knowing He listens to our prayers, we can go to Him in confidence that, while He may not act on our prayer, He has given us the privilege of being heard. On the cross, He heard and already answered the deep groan of our confession of sin. On that request, He listened and acted. He paid sin’s wage—death, and they our sin is forgiven. Let us listen to one another and give the comfort we have received from Christ.
The often forgetful, but always listening,