When I used to teach elementary school (first grade), I seated the students on the floor before me, and always, always I'd ask for two things: look me in the eye and put on your listening ears.
Watching and listening are essential to hearing and responding.
Listening is a great art...
Learning to listen is a lost art...
The verb listen, according to Merriam-Webster is to "hear something with thoughtful attention and consideration."
In the Scriptures, the word translated listen means "to hear with understanding and to give heed to and consent to what is heard." Involved in this is an unspoken, but fully understood, idea of responding to and obeying, when obedience is called upon by the hearer.
With that said, one can hear, but not listen.
The problem may be as simple as having never been taught how...
Over the years, I've really, really tried to learn the art of listening.
I'm not great at it.
It doesn't come easily.
Some people seem expertly gifted in listening.
Others....not so much.
That's the category in which my name lands.
But, I've had occasion to realize just how important this gift is on so many levels.
As well, I've learned a secret to good listening...
So, listen and I'll share the secret I've learned from some of the BEST LISTENERS...
Over the years, as we've been gifted the ability to travel, speak, and share Jesus-stories (this was pre-2020, pre-COVID 19, of course), what a privilege it has been to meet new people.
Some we've served with at events (event organizers and volunteers).
Some we've stayed with as they've opened their homes in hospitality.
Some we meet over meal tables, in discussion groups, in activities, and in general conversations.
Recently I've looked at my "collection of friends" that's reflected over social media.
I'm blessed beyond measure. I consider myself wealthy in true friends, even though I rarely see them.
Indeed, one of the benefits of travel is that there are folks I cherish all over the world - of all nationalities.
The one distinguishable trait among the closest of these is that they each have a unique gift of listening...
How do I know?
Because they've all shared one commonality - they know how to ask good questions.
Our conversations are two-sided.
They ask, I respond.
I ask, they respond.
Back and forth it goes as we learn from and about one-another.
The more I listen, the more questions are raised and asked.
The end result is that amidst the questions asked, the answers given, and the responses we make to what we have truly heard, a sense of value is created.
When people ask questions, we know they are listening.
Listening means we value one another as individuals... AND...
Value offered leads to deeper relationship.
The opposite has also been true - we've met folks from time to time, had them in our home for meals, only to sit and listen as they've gone on and on about themselves, their lives, and their families, but never once asked any questions of us in return...
This has hampered deeper relationships.
We've, sadly, seen ourselves in these folks, too...and, over time, we've attempted to make course corrections....to not be those people anymore!
The secret to good listening is asking good questions.
A sub-secret is being totally present in the conversation in order to ask those questions without trying to figure out what my next words will be...
Habakkuk is a good listener.
He questions God appropriately, without argument, without doubt...
He asks. He waits. He listens for what God will say....
Then he repeats the sequence.
And, this. This is the very thing that bridges the gap between the wrestling of Chapter 1 of Habakkuk and the worship of Chapter 3.
That first verse of the second chapter is so IMPORTANT!
When we are wrestling with the Lord, wondering what He is doing in the world about us, and questioning/lamenting the "why" of God's seeming indifference and inconsistence, we need THIS VERSE!
Habakkuk goes to the ONE PLACE where He can wait, watch, and LISTEN best (for Him it's an ancient watch tower).
He goes high in order to look out over his field of complaints...
Habakkuk's actions speak to his heart!
He has taken a listening stance.
His posture says that:
1. He intends to be stubborn in his waiting (there is even a sense in the Hebrew wording that Habakkuk's arms are crossed and there is within him a limitless determination - "I'm here as long as it takes, Lord!")...
2. His heart is prepared for whatever he might hear... He simply wants to listen to what God will tell him. Another picture from the Hebrew language is that not only are Habakkuk's arms crossed in stubborn determination, but he is leaning forward...His body language is inviting the Lord to speak back. "I am ready!"
4. He's not trying to figure out his next steps, his plan of action, or, even his reply to the Lord. He's just paying attention so he doesn't miss that still small voice of God... "I am paying attention."
5. Once he hears, Habakkuk will plan his way forward. "I will obey."
This stubborn determination of Habakkuk...
His desire to LISTEN (in the full sense of the word)...
His heart and his intention...
THIS must make God's heart SOAR!
Over 190 times in the Scriptures, the Lord begs His people to be good listeners...
This is generally followed up with these heart-breaking words:
"But they did not listen..."
The Lord is still crying out to us to listen to His voice...
Are we so busy talking, talking, talking...issuing up complaint after complaint, that we aren't paying attention to His still small voice?
Are we making our questions all about us, or are we seeking to learn from Him, as well?
Have we put on our listening ears?
The kind of listening ears Habakkuk modeled for us?
The kind of listening that says, "I value our relationship, Lord...and I want it to go deeper..."?
This kind of listening will do for us what it did for Habakkuk.
We will smoothly transition from worrying and wrestling to worshipping and fully embracing the ways of the Lord.