A wise priest recently said during his Sunday Mass homily, “You can’t hear the voice of God if you don’t shut up for a while.” O.K., so in reality he nicely said something about being quiet and listening in the stillness, but I like my version better.
While thinking about that, it struck me that there’s always some noise in my head. There’s the environmental noise of TVs, radios, digital music players, people talking within earshot, road noise and whatever. Beyond that, there’s that inner dialog that’s assessing what’s going on around me, rehashing memories and regretting that some awful TV show theme song is stuck in my head.
Please don’t think of a stupid song that gets stuck in your head. You did, didn’t you?
Occasionally when someone is talking to me, I’ll wonder why they brought something up; wonder about their motives and even make judgments before they’ve finished talking. Then there are times when I’m trying to think of something clever to say (at least it’s clever in my mind). Unfortunately, that means I’m not actually listening to the person’s words and meaning.
The worst is to later discover I said something in reply that was totally off the mark. If I had been listening, actually engaging with my partner in conversation, instead of thinking my own thoughts, the embarrassment could have been avoided.
In this same vein, I wonder what I’ve missed out on, because I didn’t make the effort to listen.
I wish I could say differently, but the reality is the same thing happens in my prayer life. In the middle of an attempt at prayer, I’ll realize I’m thinking about an upcoming work deadline. I may be wondering why my friend, Andy, hangs in with the Cubs when he could back a winner like the venerable St. Louis Cardinals.
At other times, I’ll realize my prayer time was spent running through a litany of my own thoughts, wants and needs and no time was left for God to speak. Maybe that’s why he sometimes doesn’t seem to answer.
So, what can I do about this?
For one thing, I’m going to keep praying – even if I get distracted – since they say no prayer goes to waste. But I’m also going to attempt to stop making it all about me and my own interests. And I’m going to leave some time for silence.
In conversation this Lent, I’ll take a shot at actually listening to others rather than having a quick comeback. I’ll take a chance on having an awkward pause in place of an awkward response. That is, unless I get distracted.
This is the my regular “Here Am I” column that was published in the March 6, 2015 issue of The U.P. Catholic. Complete issues of the newspaper for the Diocese of Marquette are posted online at www.upcatholic.org.