We may think we’ve heard something correctly, but then again …
A mom was teaching her three-year-old, Caitlin, “The Lord’s Prayer.” For several evenings at bedtime, little Caitlin would repeate the lines from the prayer after her mom.
Finally, the little girl decided she could go solo. The mom listened with pride as Caitlin carefully enunciated each word, right up to the end of the prayer:
“Lead us not into temptation,” she prayed, “but deliver us from e-mail. Amen.”
And sometimes we listen, but we already have decided what we’re going to “hear.”
Take this conversation, for example:
Patty’s teacher asked her, “If I give you two rabbits and two rabbits and two more rabbits, how many have you got?”
Patty replied, “Seven!”
“No, listen carefully,” the teacher said. “If I give you two rabbits and two rabbits and two rabbits, how many is that?”
“Seven!” Patty said.
“Let’s try this another way,” the teacher said. “If I give you two apples, two apples, and two apples – how many apples do you have?”
Patty replied, “Six.”
“Good,” the teacher said. “Now, if I give you two rabbits and two rabbits and two rabbits, how many rabbits have you got?”
“Patty… you’re not listening!” the teacher said in frustration. “How on earth can you say there are six apples, but seven rabbits?”
Patty smiled. “I’ve already got one rabbit at home now.”
I’ve discovered there are two kinds of hearing.
Have you ever heard your own voice on some kind of recording? The first time I heard my voice from a recorded women’s event message, I groaned and asked my husband, “Is that what I sound like? I hated my voice.
Others never complained, however, so I wondered whether I sound the same to others.
Some time ago, I read an article* that explained how sound enters our ears in one of two ways: either (1) air-conducted (through the eardrums, three tiny bones and terminating in the cochlea, which converts vibrations into nerve impulses to the brain); or (2) bone-conducted (vibrations from the vocal cords reaching the cochlea directly). [See diagram to the left, from House Research Institute.]
Dr. Chris Chang, an otolayngologist at Fauquier Ear, Nose & Throat Consultants in Warrenton, Virginia, explained, “When [someone] listens to a recording of their voice speaking, the bone-conducted pathway that they consider part of their ‘normal’ voice is eliminated, and they hear only the air-conducted component in unfamiliar isolation — what everybody else actually hears.”
In other words, we live all of our lives hearing only one component of sound. As the author of the article, science writer Jordan Gaines, noted, “…we live our lives hearing and perfecting our bone-conducted, but not air-conducted, voices.” We’re hearing, but not getting the whole hearing scenario.
As I read this article, I thought of some scriptures that indicate people hear God’s words, but they’re not recognizing His voice. Worse, they may not be hearing His heart. Or they may not listen with the intent to obey.
It seems God is saying, “There’s hearing … and then there’s hearing!”
God wants us to be attentive – to listen and take notice of what has been said. Romans 10:17 says faith comes from hearing, and hearing is through the Word of Christ (Romans 10:17). Unbelievers must have their spiritual ears opened.
Sadly, many hear the Gospel message, but few “hear” (receive and respond to) it. Some hear the Gospel and purposely shut their ears, becoming hard-hearted toward the Truth. Some are so concerned about the things of the world (1 John 2:15-17), their ears are not tuned to the things of God. To be sure, the enemy is busy and creative, trying to distract these careless hearers (see the parable of the Sower, Mark 4:3-15). In some cases, God hardens hearts that will not hear so they cannot hear (Isaiah 6:9-10; Matthew 13:15).
But it’s not just unbelievers who have a hearing problem. Christians (like me) can also be inattentive hearers to the Word and will of God. How often do we hear only what we want to hear. We get so busy, even in ministry, that we “turn a deaf ear” to the voice of God. If we were truly listening, we might more often hear the still, quiet voice of the Spirit, directing our lives.
In Luke 11:28, Jesus said, “… Blessed rather are those who hear the word of God and keep it.” He also said, “…My mother and brothers are those who hear the word of God and do it” (Luke 8:21). Hearing that leads to obedience brings blessing (John 13:17).
Sometimes I am guilty of giving simple assent to the words of God, but then not putting them into practice. It’s not intentional hypocrisy, but rather, careless listening. It’s listening, in the busyness of my day, without the eager intent to obey. When I recognize this deafness toward the Spirit, I repent and remember why Jesus died for me. He didn’t die so I could hear the story of victory and abundant living over and over but then live my life with my personal agenda. He died and rose again so I could hear the Gospel, embrace it, and then love, serve, obey and glorify Him in all things.
Do you find yourself hearing God and His Word, but not hearing in a productive, fruit-producing way?
What do you think causes our careless listening?
* Quoted in “The Body Odd” by Jordan Gaines, NBCNews.com, 4-2-13