Contemplative Listening

by Kim Alexis

Sue Monk Kidd does an admirable job of listening to God through her waiting time of a mid-life crisis. She is tempted to rush the process but instead looks at lessons from a cocoon she finds in her garden as she waits for it to turn into a butterfly. She struggles with confiding in those around her, her husband and friends. She often receives lessons from her children, especially when they were younger. Through this waiting time, she learns to hear God better and relates to others, and she realizes, that the cocoon will begin again. Life is a circular process.

I found in the book a real hope and reliability on the process that God has each of us in. She gives me patience and courage to look for God in my crisises and in my life. I feel that I can trust God more, that He will hear me, and that I can hear Him in my own way. He knows how to tailor listening to me, just as He was able to shape it specifically to Sue. I have been able to hear God’s still small voice better when I don’t try so hard to hear it. I need to just be patient, to wait for Him to speak, in His own way, in His own timing but in a way He knows I’ll hear. I am learning to trust Him with the process as well as the final result.

I think this has been one of the biggest obstacles in hearing from God for me. I want to control the process and my own life, therefore I could not hear from God because I was not listening for the words I didn’t want to hear. As I have given over the control of my life, both in the process of what happens each and every day, as well as the end result, “what am I going to do with my life”, it has been easier to hear from God a little at a time. I am listening to BE instead of to DO. Where I want to have the whole itinerary for the trip (of my life), He instead says trust Me! Let’s have an adventure!

The second obstacle to hearing from God and even from others has been my competitive attitude towards life. I feel like I want to get ahead of others instead of working together to do what God wants. When I compete with others, I can’t learn from them. When I compete with God, I always lose! I know in my head that this is not how I ought to be, yet in my heart I keep doing it.

In talking with my spiritual director this last time, she asked me what it is that I really want from God? At first I didn’t know but after talking and recalling our silent day at the intensive, I realized, that what I really want is to have fun with God. I just don’t know how or think I don’t know how. I was telling her how I went for a walk and saw a small stream, and thought about floating two leaves down the stream, to see which one would win! Here is my competitive nature again! Why do leaves have to win (and by implication, lose)?! So instead of scolding myself, as I am apt to do, she had me imagine Jesus on the other side of the stream. We each drop a leaf in and we watch them going along the stream. First, mine gets ahead, then His. Finally, the leaves round a bend and go under some branches so we can no longer see which one wins! But He is okay with that, and so am I! And we are both laughing together and He is not scolding me for being competitive. He is instead, joining in the fun, accepting my nature yet gently saying, it’s okay, we can both win. No one has to lose. And I am realizing for the first time, I am hearing and imagining God having fun with me! I am able to listen to what He is saying, and He is connecting to my deep longings to become like a child and have fun with Him!

I started a painting yesterday. I felt it was important to paint with God. It felt like it was important to have a little fun. To keep the dialogue open, even with parts that are hard to hear. Next, is the courage to dance with God. As Sue Monk Kidd says, “the point of the spiritual life is that you dance the music God pipes in you” (p. 185).

In the last month, I have been healed of a physical ailment that has been plaguing me for three years. I have been asking God about it, and He seems to have been silent, until now. As I sat with God looking back to where things were three years ago, he revealed lies I have been believing and had not refuted. I had taken those lies in. As I confessed, and asked for forgiveness for receiving those lies, the healing happened! Over the course of about a week, with each confession of things brought to mind by God’s still small voice, more and more healing happened in my life! I can now say that I have been completely healed! I am so glad to hear God’s voice, and for Him to be teaching me how to listen.

He has also been teaching me to listen with others and to others. Practicing the Presence of People by Mike Mason has taught me so much in this regard. As I listened to God, and picked up this book, and began reading it, He has used it to shape me hearing from others. With my competitive nature, I talked about earlier, to even holier ground, as Sue Monk Kidd calls it. “God calls us from authentic ‘I’ toward a compassionate ‘we’” (p. 200). This is not easy! I know I cannot do this on my own strength. As I navigate in the compassionate ‘we’ I depend completely on God’s grace and voice. I know I will drown immediately if I do not listen to Him. And yet, this is what He calls me to. As my understanding of what Living from the Heart means to me, God gave me a sentence without much effort which sums it up for me and will take my whole lifetime to do. Practicing the presence of God, myself and others, in the present, through love – my mission statement.

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