This past year I was part of a gap-year style discipleship program as I tried to discern where God was calling me after a couple of difficult years and some serious road bumps. As part of our celebration evening at the end of November we each shared three words that summed up what we had learnt, and in a way I feel I didn’t do justice to just how big an impact my three words have had on me this year, so I thought I might share them here.
My first word, one of two words that came out of a ‘word of the year’ type activity, was LISTEN. I started the year ready to listen to God, to get an answer to my ‘what should I do next?’ question so that I could get started. I was ready to hear exactly what career path I should go down, where and what study I should do, what sort of job I would have at the end, to discover exactly what the next 10+ years of my life would look like. Looking back now I know how ridiculous a hope that was, and at the time I was aware that it was unreasonable, but I was ready to listen for it anyway.
Unsurprisingly, I haven’t really had answers to any of that (although I do feel a need to continue with further theology study). But I have learnt what it actually means to listen. That to listen we need to be in a state of preparedness, but that we aren’t in control of what we will hear or when we will hear it. That to listen is to say ‘I’m here and ready whenever the right time is’. It’s being prepared to wait and be patient, to being open to things we might not want to hear, to remembering that it’s not all centred on us.
And I think this understanding of what it means to listen is also valuable in our relationships with others, and in our friendships. Particularly for someone who is struggling with a mental illness, to know that someone is ready to listen whenever the time is right and about whatever wants to be shared, without fear that its not the right thing or right time, can be a real blessing.
To listen means not being in control of the what and when, but being prepared and ready to hear whatever, whenever.