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Have you ever tried to listen?

July 16, 2016

Have you ever tried to listen? I mean really listen? I have and it’s a lot harder than it sounds. At least I find it so.

I sit and listen to the wind in the bushes. I listen hard. I’m doing well, for a second or so, then all the concerns and the business come bubbling up. I start out listening to the wind then I suddenly come to myself with a start: I’ve been planning the next service rota in my head or thinking about a tricky issue that will come up in the next meeting. I try again. Again I’m doing well; then I find that I’m not even sitting anymore, I’ve wandered over to check on the bees, or I’m on my knees clearing rubbish from the pond.

I try to listen but so often I find that no matter how hard I try I quickly find that I’m being busy again, I’m worrying again, I’m active again. This fault can happen anywhere, anytime. I can be reading my Bible or praying and my mind can lead me away to the business of the day, or I can suddenly find myself at my computer busily replying to my emails!

This may seem like a normal confession. It is I suppose. The danger is that it needs dealing with or I’ll very soon find that I’m with a bereaved family, and suddenly realise that I haven’t heard a word that the tearful people before me have said. It is serious, I worry about so many things, but only one is needed.

I worry about so many things, the growth of my church, the state of my country, a racist incident in one of my schools, that tricky meeting, illness, family, pets …, the list seems endless until my mind feels as though it is going to explode.

I worry about so many things, but only one thing is needed, only one thing is necessary.

Then I laugh at myself. The silly fool that I am. Rushing around inside my head, rushing around my parishes, rushing around, always late, never getting there. I laugh and Jesus’ words to Martha come back to me. I’ll tell the story (Luke 10.38-42):

Jesus is staying in the house of two sisters, Mary and Martha. Mary is doing her job, she is working hard making sure that her important guest, and the crowd that came with him, are looked after properly. She’s making sure they have a drink at least. But what of her sister? Martha is sitting dough-eyed on the floor listening to Jesus, without a care in the world – without a care for her poor stressed sister.

Martha complains to Jesus and he says, “Martha, Martha! You are worried and upset about so many things, but only one thing is necessary. Mary has chosen what is best, and it will not be taken away from her.”

I see Martha in my mind, and I see the March Hare from Alice in Wonderland, I see myself growing huge ears and big teeth, and I laugh again.

I remember why George and Margaret and other teachers in college taught me Christian Meditation. I laugh, as the knots in my mind untie. I laugh as I sit quietly again. The laughing fades with the gentle rhythm of my breathing. The worries begin to dissolve with the gentle repetition of the Jesus Prayer; “Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me a sinner”. The words flow, and eventually become background. For a little while at least I am Mary, not Martha, I am sitting with my mind open, I am sitting at the feet of Jesus; waiting and listening. Then occasionally, just occasionally, I enter completely into the silence between my thoughts. I am beyond thought, one with Christ, one with the Father, one with the Spirit – but those thoughts only come after. For that time, all too short, I and God are one, and my ‘I’ dissolves.

Then I’m back in the struggle with my business. I’m sitting at Jesus feet but itching to get on with the work to be done. I’m Martha once again. I notice and laugh, and Jesus laughs too.

I head to my next meeting, busy, but still with words, gentle but firm in my mind, “only one thing is necessary,” and was that just a hint of another laugh?

  1. Redenhall & Scole permalink

    Reading this is just what I need! Everyone is different in listening and sometimes we need someone like you to prod us to just sit and listen like Mary.

    I wish, I was her at Jesus’s feet and listening in wonder!


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