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Hearing vs. Listening

When I took my first sip of coffee that recent morning, it was still early, and a peaceful darkness enveloped our back porch.

As the hot mixture of medium roast and cream trickled into my system, I savored the early sounds of creation that wafted through the screen, as insects softly sang their tunes and distant frogs harmonized from the retention pond down the road.

Within this pre-dawn ensemble that God faithfully provides, I do my best to “be still before the Lord and wait patiently for him” (Psalm 37:7, NIV).

But that morning, a foreign noise abruptly shattered the tender chorus: the rambunctious beat of a radio station that echoed through the woods.

Now, I’ll admit, “shattered” may be a bit dramatic—since it wasn’t overly loud, just someone heading out to work who’d likely left their truck door open as they prepared to leave for the day.

But to my suddenly-irritated and somewhat-indignant senses, it felt like exactly that.

Because I allowed that tinny echo of country music to upend my goal of quieting my mind so I could listen for the Holy Spirit—which is enough of a challenge without having a caffeine-hyped early-morning-radio host thwarting my efforts.

However, after a few minutes of asking the Lord to help me with my aggravation, I realized the problem wasn’t some artificial noise that was inhibiting my ability to hear God within the birds who were starting to chirp their daybreak greetings—but my inability to ignore the distraction and listen beyond it.

Once I did that, everything became more acute.

The additional species of birds who were now awake and calling to their neighbors.

The soft breeze on my face that tickled the palm fronds on the porch and playfully bumped the tenor pipes of Mom’s memorial chimes.

The crackling of bark on a pine tree as a squirrel scampered up its trunk.

The dwindling aroma of fresh-cut grass from Dave’s hard work the afternoon before.

The peaceful sense of God’s presence—reminding me that it is within the quiet of the listening that He awaits.

In our world today, there’s an abundance of noise to occupy our senses and distract us from focusing on Jesus.

Like Peter, we may briefly hold His gaze—but then succumb to the turbulence of the waves when we shift our focus to them, instead (Matthew 14:25-31).

The good news is that no matter what uproar may surge around us, as Christians, we can rest assured that the Creator of the Universe is still and eternally in charge.

And He calls us to perpetually return to a place of focused listening where we can be reminded of that.

Where we can be still and know that He is God (Psalm 46:10).

This post first appeared in the latest edition of The Empowered Traveler™ Newsletter. If you’re not already a subscriber, you can do that here: Subscribe to Sue’s newsletter.

Feature photo by Melissa Askew on Unsplash.

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