8 December 2017
I am an introvert. That doesn’t mean I don’t like spending time with people, and indeed as I work for the church, most of my days are spent communicating in one form or another. But I am a listener more than a talker, and I value silence and aloneness as spaces to recharge my batteries.
Listening to God, I think, takes a certain amount of silence. I used to visit a convent in Wantage in Oxfordshire for retreats, where most of the day, including mealtimes, was spent in silence. The noisiest it got was when we heard the chanting of psalms and reading of Scripture in chapel. In this atmosphere, listening for God starts to come naturally, in the quiet of silent reflection, or the hearing of holy words.
In our daily lives in London, there is more background noise, and social media and email can demand our constant attention. But even here we have the chance to experience a listening place, perhaps while gazing at the sky from a commuter train, or sitting quietly at home (which I am now as I write this) when our diary lets us. I find it helpful to build a little quiet time into most days, just to relax and experience God’s presence, without needing to ‘do’ anything.
And yet knowing that God is with us, Emmanuel, there is another aspect to listening to God we should acknowledge – that God can speak to us through his creation and his creatures. The mystic Meister Eckhart famously said ‘every creature is a Word of God’. So next time you are speaking to a stranger, or taking in a scene, be aware that God can speak, and we should listen, to what God might be saying in that situation. What we hear might surprise, or even change, us.