Here’s the old Don with a quick answer: “What you need to do is spend 10 minutes reading your Bible every day. That’s really not very long. I think you’d agree, wouldn’t you? (“Sure”, they would usually reply.) Well I have an assignment to you. For the next month I want you to read a Psalm every day. Then read a couple of proverbs after that. The Proverbs are great … so full of practical wisdom. And then, of course, you must read something from one of the Gospels, too. Start with the Gospel of John and read a half a chapter a day. Read it slowly and really let it soak in. Try that. Surely you have 10 minutes. Gee, everybody has 10 minutes. Does that make sense? (Here they often would shake their head up and down in agreement.) Okay, good. I want you to call me in 3 or 4 days and let me know how that works for you. Bless you now. Hope that helped.”
Do I like people to speak to me with that kind of “advice”? Nope. Sure don’t. Did it ever work when I did it that way? Probably not much, to be honest.
Well, the older I get the fewer answers I feel I actually have for people. I am, however, pretty good at listening and better and better at asking great questions. So if a person today, say, tells me they want to read the Bible more, nowadays I usually (not always, I’m sure) have the brains to ask, “What makes you think you want to read the Bible more?” Or “What are you thinking about?” Or “What would that look for you? Or even, “What would have to change in your life for that to happen?” … I want it to be their plan, not mine.
Waiting patiently for others to talk and think through their own options is a crucial skill in this business of listening — truly listening, that is, and not sitting there thinking of some knock-dead perfect solution while they are still talking.
Almost daily I discover that the better I listen, the better I am at getting to the root cause of the issue. When I don’t listen well and jump in with my opinion — as I sometimes do, sad to say — I have more than once complicated the issue by saying something that was not particularly appropriate to the situation.
That brings to mind a favorite Proverb: “He who answers before listening — that is his folly and shame.” Proverbs 18:13
One of the things I am working at is getting comfortable with silence. In fact, during this Lenten season I have been driving to different appointments without always having to turn on the radio as soon as I get in the car. Silence in the car is not the absence of sound. It is, though, the absence of constant noise.
When I take away the “noise,” I often hear my own heart giving me instruction on significant matters. And I’m liking that — a lot. Try it. You might just be pleasantly surprised…