Years ago I worked cleaning small oil tankers. The process didn’t bother me. Climbing without safety lines up the sides of the ship’s hold, planting my feed on the steel ribs coated with three inch think slaps of crude oil, or blissfully sliding down I-beams in the center hold were a natural part of being a confident young adult. What disturbed me was our communication. The key words were crude, blunt, and without respect. Forget being considerate. Ignore courtesies. Rude, obscene language was the vehicle of choice.
I used to think it was a time and place thing. I now see it differently. Regardless of the words, the intensity, or the vocabulary (lack of), the key that makes dialogue work is “listening”. Most of the time when things break the receiver just isn’t doing the basics. Staff meetings are forgotten before they are completed. An exchange of views is noted in the context of what “I” wanted to hear. Memories are biased, filled with gaps, and one-sided. In other words there is a total lack of anything resembling true shared communication between the two parties.
The problem isn’t new. John noted God’s frustration with this. “Are you listening to this? They’ve made their bed; now they must lie in it. Anyone marked for prison goes straight to prison; anyone pulling a sword goes down by the sword. Meanwhile, God’s holy people passionately and faithfully stand their ground.” (Revelation 13.9, 10)
When I pause I can hear and see God at work, everywhere. I wonder what changes when I’m busy. Does God go on vacation? Is the Spirit on holiday? Do Angels need bathroom breaks?
The simple answer is that I turn off my hearing. I’m deaf to God’s words, touch, and experience. Today is full of new opportunities to listen, to let the Spirit into my life, to be engaged with God. This isn’t just in the quite moments, it is in the rough and tumble world where I live. I refuse to let my deafness continue; it’s my choice after all. It is also yours.