I have been looking forward to this book for a while now. Adam McHugh’s first book, Introverts in the Church, was extremely helpful to me as an introvert that also deeply loves the church.
“Listening ought to be at the heart of our spirituality, our relationships, our mission as the body of Christ, our relationship to culture and the world. We are invited to approach everything with the goal of listening first. We are called to participate in the listening life.”
I probably should have expected that much of The Listening Life would be about listening to God, but I did not. After an introduction, there are three chapters on listening in relation to God, how God, as King, listens to us, how we should listen to God and how scripture helps us better hear God.
“In a sense, the Scriptures are a tuning fork for adjusting our ears to the tone of God’s voice. It attunes us to the quality, the pitch and the cadence of God’s voice, and to the character that his voice expresses, so that we can identify his true voice over false ones.”
Throughout the book, McHugh keeps reminding us that listening is part of being a Christian, part of being mature, part of being fulfilling our created role as humans.
The strongest chapter (or at least the one that was the reason I purchased a couple copies to give away) is the chapter on listening to people in pain.
“When we try to help someone in pain, we often end up saying or doing things, subconsciously, to assuage our own anxiety. Let’s be honest: we often want others to be okay so we can feel okay. We want them to feel better and move on so our lives can return to normal. We try to control the conversation as a way of compensating for our anxiety. Our approach to people in pain can amount to self-therapy.”
If you have ever participated in a Christian prayer group or bible study, you know that there is often great pressure on members to show healing from pain or to show strength in the face of pain because the other members of the group do not want to be in pain.
“Bonhoeffer said it almost as strongly: “It must be a decisive rule of every Christian fellowship that each individual is prohibited from saying much that occurs to him.” In other words, listening and silence are not necessarily the same thing, but silence is a really good start. Some situations are so heavy that only silence can support their weight.”
I say this more often than I actually do it, but this is a book that I will read again. It is easier to read about listening than actually listen, as McHugh says, but this was a very good reminder both why listening is important, and how we can better listen to God, those around us, and ourselves.