In the Spirit: Take the Spiritual “Hearing Test” | Religion

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A friend of mine recently received hearing aids. He then made the statement so common to those who have just received such devices: “Oh, that’s wonderful, why didn’t I do it sooner? “

But then, after getting a little used to how the sound was improved for him, he started to notice a difficulty he hadn’t anticipated.

The hearing aid, not being able to prioritize sound like a natural ear does, increased all sounds by the same amount.

Where a natural ear would listen to the most important sound in an environment and be able to focus on that sound and eliminate background noise, the hearing aid amplified all sounds, important or not.

My friend has found that, especially in crowded environments, he needs to look at the face of the person he is talking to, see words form, see facial expressions. He needed to see in order to hear better.

Do you see the spiritual parallel? In this non-stop culture, we are surrounded by noise. As we increase the number of voices we hear, as we receive sound bites and tweets instantly, as we hear TV screens chatting on a 24 hour news cycle, relative ‘airspace’ or the “column inches” given to God constitute a smaller part; you need a finer ear to hear it.

It is difficult to focus on God’s gentle, loving, humble, sometimes provocative words for us in the flood of sounds around us.

It is as if we are wearing a cultural hearing aid, a device that evenly amplifies all sounds. As people of faith, we are challenged to prioritize some over others.

How? ‘Or’ What? My friend who has new hearing aids discovered that in order to understand the voice he wanted to focus on, he had to look at the person’s face, observe the words as they formed in the conversation.

What a beautiful call, both to prayer and to reading the word of God! Some refer to prayer as “seeking the face of God” – that we spend time experiencing the presence of God, both speaking to God and listening to him. Likewise, reading the scriptures is a way to see the words form, the communication of God to the people of God unfold, the great history of salvation from Genesis to Revelation.

In this particular season of the year, as we move into the relentlessness of the “vacation”, let us take up this challenge, this spiritual “hearing test”. Let’s engage in daily prayer and scripture reading, so that we can better tailor our hearing to the pace and caliber of God’s words to us.

Let us seek the face of God, so that we can hear the word of God, so that we can better speak it to the world.

The Reverend Rachel M. Fisher is with Aldersgate United Methodist Church in North Reading.


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