First Step: How Can I Learn to Listen to God?

I just presented a half day retreat at a local church using two Scripture stories for imaginative meditation (Ignatian style): Luke 13.10-17, the story of the bent over woman, and Mark 10.46-52, the healing of blind Bartimaeus. In both stories, the people seeking healing have to ignore many other voices around them to hear the voice of Jesus. The woman in Luke 10 has to ignore the voice of the synagogue leader bringing the familiar message of shame to her, even after her healing at the hands of Jesus. Bartimaeus has to ignore the voice of the crowd telling him to shut up but then has to trust the voice of the crowd as they tell him: “Cheer up! On your feet? He’s calling you!”

Such rich stories on so many levels. But one of the questions to ponder while reading them is: how can I focus on the voice of Jesus amidst all the other voices that threaten to drown his out?

I have been drawn to the power of listening to God since my college days, no doubt because I am very prone to be distracted and to give power to voices other than Jesus’s. In 1981 I wrote confidently of the most important things I had learned during the 1970’s (my high school and college years, for the most part). One of those things was “the necessity of a life of spiritual discipline leading into action in God’s world.” I wrote: “…we can only live through periods of quietness and rest in God. Here we get a perspective on problems and events. And here we see what we must do about them.”

But the next 20 years were a time of learning more about how to make those times of quietness and rest a reality in the midst of a busy life of ministry and family.

This is how ministry begins: focus on listening to God. If you’re not an aural learner, maybe you want to substitute seeing God, or experiencing God, or encountering God.

I leave you with this question: How can I make room in my ongoing life and ministry to seek first the Kingdom of God, to hear God’s voice, to experience God’s presence, to follow God’s lead?

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