Selective listening: that’s my term for how I choose to listen to the words of others.
For a mom, selective listening works handily. I whip out that tool on a daily basis when dealing with my eight-year-old. He has a habit of calling me from the school room upstairs while I am working in the office downstairs, sometimes sounding as though he has broken a bone, at the very least.
But I can always tell whether I need to truly tune in or not, just by the tone of his voice. Genuinely desperate? Yes, he needs me. Just a normal, “Hey, Mom? Can you come here?” He may or may not actually need me. Sometimes, he yells down to me, “Never mind,” before I even have a chance to respond. Other times, I’ll give it a few seconds…wait for it…then ask, “Do you really need me, or can you figure it out yourself?”
I’m trying to teach him that his default response to a problem shouldn’t be to call me or ask his older siblings what to do. Most of the time, his issues are no bigger than a difficult division problem or a broken pencil lead, and he can take care of those things himself. So I listen carefully and decide how best to respond, to benefit him in the long run and teach him independence.
Selective listening works for me as a wife as well. Now, I know what you’re thinking, and it’s not like that! I do try to listen to everything my husband says. But there are times in the course of our normal conversations that we forget something the other said. We blame fatigue, distractions, and our advanced age (we are both over 40 now), but honestly, I just can’t seem to truly listen to and retain everything my spouse tells me. And that bothers me. My husband is my friend, partner, and yes—my love interest still.
All that to say, I owe him my full attention, my completely listening ears. Most of the time, I could listen better and less selectively to him. I shouldn’t filter what he says or think ahead to what I want to say or be annoyed that he is interrupting one of my Very Important Activities.
I wince when I consider that I selectively listen to the Lord at times, too.
“Hey, Lord, I only have a few minutes this morning, so make it quick,” I might as well say. “Sorry, I don’t have time to listen to whatever you’re trying to tell me. It’s probably the same old, same old, anyway.”
And of course, that is utterly false. The miraculous still lies in wait for me in the age-old pages of the Bible, just waiting for me to discover, to hear God’s voice in a new way. The thing is, God’s voice doesn’t often shout, at least not to me. Though Scripture often compares his voice to the sound of many waters or thunder, to me it seems to speak softly, filling my ears only when I have made the time and created the space in my soul—like the still, small voice that Elijah experienced in I Kings 19.
…And, behold, the Lord passed by, and a great and strong wind rent the mountains, and brake in pieces the rocks before the Lord; but the Lord was not in the wind: and after the wind an earthquake; but the Lord was not in the earthquake:
And after the earthquake a fire; but the Lord was not in the fire: and after the fire a still small voice.
How well are you able to listen to your loved ones and to the Lord? I would love to hear from you.