The Power of Listening

Jesus was thirty years old before He began His ministry. That’s thirty years where He didn’t do any preaching or teaching, no miracles, no healings, no casting out demons, no turning over Temple tables, no walking all around the country. Well, what then was He doing all that time?

He was listening.

That’s right. There’s great power in listening.

Listening is something I get to do a lot of as I learn Spanish. I had the privilege of going to visit a sick elderly man in a remote area a few weeks ago with one of the Franciscan sisters. After driving off road on one of the campo roads for a while, we reached a point where we couldn’t drive anymore. With the family who was guiding us, we walked up to the home where this 96 year old man lives with his wife, and sometimes his son. It’s a typical campo house, a small wooden shack with a small farm and farm animals going about. Hard-pressed dirt ground, some dogs barking, chickens roaming around.

We met the son and the wife, and we entered the man’s room. He sat there on his bed, and after the greeting, we all began a conversation with the son and the wife. We found out a lot of things. And I could see the man’s head turning left and right as each person was talking. The conversation went on for almost a half an hour, but the conversation was so good, no one was speaking with the sick man. Finally, a few people left, and the sister and I were alone with the man.

And he began to speak.

He spoke for about 10 minutes straight, about God and life. I heard the sister whisper over to me in amazement, “He’s very religious.” Now, I couldn’t understand all the words he was speaking. I took her word for it. But what I could see for the first time was his personality come alive. I could see his spirit rise up, as if from the dead.

Listening has power.

There is a story in the Gospels about a woman with a hemorrhaging problem who comes to Jesus and tries to touch his cloak. She’s gone to doctors for a cure, and nothing’s worked, it’s only gotten worse. Doctors are very busy, very smart and talented people. I imagine the doctors telling her all about her problem, what she needs to do, maybe having a conversation with her family, for the upteenth time. I imagine she doesn’t want to get anywhere near a doctor again. So enter Jesus. See, she doesn’t have to even talk to him – healing without being talked at, the best of both worlds. She’s very confident that even just touching his cloak will heal her from her problem. And it does. But when she does it, Jesus notices. Even in the midst of all the motion and commotion and noise, the big crowd pushing up against Him, He noticed it. That’s because Jesus is a great listener. That’s where He gets His power. “But the woman … told him the whole truth.” (Mk 5:33)

God is a great listener. If we have problems in our life, if there’s something weighing on our heart, something that we’ve done or that’s been done to us, or something that’s just come our way in life, we can always tell God everything. It can bring new life to our personality, can raise our spirit up from the depths.

That’s the power of listening.

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