A dear friend of mine is a gifted conversationalist. Conversational lull is rare when she’s in the mix, because she is either drawing others out through probing questions or introducing a new topic from something that’s recently piqued her interest. Her ability to connect to people means that many would count her as one of their closest friends, even when there hasn’t been much shared experience or history to support the notion.
I think it all comes down to engaged listening. My friend is able to be all-in conversationally, and this intense gift of attention is special. Most of us enter conversations in part, not in whole. We are distracted by other cares, we are busy formulating replies, and we have devices clamoring for our attention. It’s hard to listen in full to anyone—even God. But when we fail to exercise our listening skills with the people around us, we lose something spiritually as well. How can we tune in to the God we can’t see when we can’t even tune in to the people we can?
Our spiritual listening skills are either being sharpened or dulled day by day. When we aren’t exercising this skill, the dullness grows and contributes to our zombie-like faith symptoms. We become less and less able to exhibit the signs of life that keep us in the land of the living.
Richard Foster gives us this encouragement in Celebration of Discipline:
To listen to others quiets and disciplines the mind to listen to God. It creates an inward working upon the heart that transforms the affections, even the priorities, of life. When we have grown dull in listening to God, we would do well to listen to others in silence and see if we do not hear God through them. (139)
Are you ears feeling dull toward God right now? Mine too. Zombie-like senses are a sign that I need to turn my heart and senses toward God, to come alive to all that He is. What if that starts by giving attention to the flesh and blood people in my midst, so that I can hear the Spirit’s still small voice?