It happened on an unusually sunny afternoon as Autumn and I were walking home from school. One of her little hands held mine and the other was clasped around Magic, her beloved pink unicorn. It accompanies us wherever we go. And it needs washed.
We were chatting breezily about our trampoline and how long it would be until she could wear socks to school and how a small k and a big K are so similar. You know, all of the things.
Then she started on about something that had happened in class. She’s five so there is always an anicdote or two to be heard on the way home from school. But this one seemed to have annoyed her a little bit. She was doing her best to explain but I cut in and said this;
‘Don’t worry about it Autumn, just say something to your teacher.
Did you eat all of your lunch?’
And we carried on down the path towards home.
But later my mind took me back to that scene, that walk home with my daughter. I think she was trying to explain a situation that wasn’t quite right. I think she was trying to let me in on a little bit of her day and the part that went wrong.
But I got impatient.
I jumped in, dismissed her worry and solved the problem, in a few words.
And I do this a lot.
Because it takes time to understand their frustration or disappointment or questions. Listening well means I can’t get my agenda done, it means I can’t move on to the next thing. Sometimes, it is so hard to slow down, be quiet and listen.
And in my parenting class we had been learning about reflective listening. We had talked about waiting for our children to explain themselves rather than offering our quick advice and judgements.
I think on the surface, fixing their stuff in an instant feels really efficient and caring. As I stomp through the day I impart my hard won wisdom and knowledge, quickly putting out all the fires and with enough energy left to start into their homework.
But in truth, sometimes I miss out on the explanations, I miss out on the opportunities to have those important conversations.
What if I worked out a problem with my daughter instead of for her?
So can you tell me why this is making you sad?
Why do you think this keeps happening?
Can you think of some ideas that could help?
Would you like me to ask you about this again tomorrow?
This will take up a lot more of my time. This will cause me to engage my brain and my heart. But my daughter will feel more understood and valued. We’ll feel closer and more connected. It is so worth the investment!
And I guess in some ways I relate to God in a similar fashion -always rushing, hurried and constantly interrupting with my own ideas and solutions. I’m not prepared or ready to let Him show me something new or discover the truth He wants to share.
I’m hard wired to always have the answer, convey what I know and hear my own voice. I like having the control of my own story. Perhaps I don’t fully trust He has all the answers. Perhaps I am just so proud of all my accomplishments that I don’t think He is worth the investment of my time. Because listening is not about me, it’s about Him. And that’s tough. I much prefer the focus and the attention to be on me.
But I once read that humility is recognising what is real and living in light of that.
And for people like me, there’s a glimmer of hope in these words.
Because what is real is my need for God, my pride and my performance.
But what’s also real is his relentless love and pursuit of my heart.
And so I keep coming back to Him with my mess. And He keeps coming after me with His love. And this, I believe, is amazing grace.
Be so still inside that you can listen at every moment to what life is offering you. Brother David Steindl-Rast
I love to multi-task, but perhaps I need to put down my phone or my dishcloth or my armful of toys, look my daughter in the eye and say, ‘I’m listening’. I need to cultivate this in our family, it won’t come naturally. And similarly, I think God might be saying to me: Tory, put down all of your stuff and cultivate a heart that listens.
I love to speak and use all of the words. I love to be right. But I think God might be saying to me: Tory, hearing your own voice is not as important as listening for mine.