February 17, 2021
Listening With All Our Heart, Soul, Strength, and Mind
by Lisa Saunders
The word “listen” contains the same letters as the word “silent.” —Alfred Brendel
One year for Lent I gave up yelling at my children.
They were ten, eight, and four. My volume control was no longer under control. I raised my voice far too often, making none of us happy. I told our children the plan. They were thrilled and took great pleasure in holding me accountable.
Of all the Lenten disciplines I have taken on through the years, this one stuck. I broke a bad habit. I had been yelling because no one appeared to be listening to me. As it turned out, the less I yelled, the more they heard me. And I found I was better at listening to them.
It surprised me to realize that being good at listening is not just about hearing what someone says. It is also about how my listening makes someone else feel.
Ash Wednesday is the start to a season inviting us to set aside or stop whatever gets in the way of our listening well. The letters in the word “listen” can be rearranged to spell “silent.” I am not any good at silence. But I don’t think God yells, so if I want to hear God, I must get quiet. It is lovely to imagine that I might delight God by the way I listen.
Listening is essential for the development of intimacy, trust, healing, and wisdom. Listening to our loved ones (heart), to our longings (soul), to our body (strength), and to our insight (mind) are all forms of prayer and listening to God. I find that God speaks to me most often through other people, but I also hear God’s voice in my gut, in my bliss, and in my ounce of common sense.
Listening with our heart, soul, strength, and mind has restorative pow- ers. Some pain cannot be taken away, but hurt that is heard can be eased. When we listen with a desire to understand and appreciate, we unfurl and expand. The woman who touched the hem of Jesus’ garment was healed of her disease. She also got to tell Jesus “the whole truth.” That he listened to her story likely healed her soul, as well.
My two favorite Lents were those that I was on maternity leave. I didn’t take on any special Lenten practice, although I sacrificed sleep and sanity all forty days. I spent those Lents falling in love, nestling a grapefruit-sized head against my heart. I am spending this Lent nuzzling the head of my infant grandson. I am listening for his fretful cries, contented coos, and still, small voice. If I am quiet enough, I will hear the love between us flowing like a rushing river.