Within days of losing my hearing, I realized I would need to become a better listener.
A severe bout of winter illnesses had attacked my lungs, my sinuses, and finally, my ear. A balloon of liquid wedged itself up against my left eardrum, rendering me deaf to southpaw sounds. What was more, it created an echo effect in my head. Everything was too soft and too loud at the same time. I couldn’t hear what my children were saying, yet I could constantly hear myself breathing.
I began to position myself differently. “Let me drive,” I said to my husband, “so I can hear you on my right.” When I picked up my wailing toddler, I placed his head on my left shoulder, thankful that his wails would be drowned out on that side. When picking up my kids from school, I put the whining preschooler on my left, and the seven-year old who was telling me about her day on my right.
I have often accused my children of selective listening, but now I was practicing it intentionally. “Mom,” I’d hear, and then I’d swivel my head to turn my good ear towards them. My body signals that I’m paying attention, and the physical act of bending triggers something in the recesses of my memory: a verse buried in the way, way back. Psalm 116:2. The classic version. “Because he hath inclined his ear unto me, therefore will I call upon him as long as I live.”
The NIV put this this way: “Because he turned his ear to me, I will call on him as long as I live.” Sweeter yet is the New Living Translation: “Because he bends down to listen, I will pray as long as I have breath!”
He bends to listen.
He bends to listen.
The tender attentiveness of a listening Father caught my breath. As a parent, I am acutely aware that while I usually hear my children, I often don’t listen. I hear the chatter and the questions and the pitter-patter (and thump-thump) of little feet. I hear the sound of Lego being swished around in a drawer and of little voices negotiating whose turn it is to be the teacher.
But often, I tune it out. Though my children are present before me, I tune them out – like a DSLR camera focusing on the object right before me and having everything in the background wilt into fuzziness.
A partial loss of hearing, bringing with it the whoosh of additional white noise in my head, has made me refocus, recalibrate, regroup. I cannot rely on the pitch of a whine or the volume of a complaint to be the red flags for when I need to pay attention: I need to bend down, turn my ear, listen up.
This is how the Father hears our prayers. We are not a whoosh of background noise to him. In a room where everyone talks at once (which is how I sometimes imagine God hearing the prayers of all his children, all talking all at the same time), he is able to give his full attention to each voice.
He stooped to meet us in the person of Jesus, and He stoops to listen still.
“I waited patiently for the Lord, he turned to me and heard my cry.” (Psalm 40:1)
My daughter stands patiently at my side, tugging at my sweater. “Mom, I need to tell you something,” she says. I dust off my hands and let my knees carry me to the ground. I pull her close and bend my good ear towards her lips. “I’m listening,” I say.
In that moment, I’m reminded why we pray.
Because he doesn’t just hear.
He bends down, and listens.