The following story has a “gross warning”. It involves my ear wax but stay with me as I think it provides a powerful picture for all of us living in a world where we are bombarded daily with noise and information.
Poor me – over recent weeks I’ve been fighting of “man-flu”! Yes, I’ve had a cold and as often happens when my nose is running and I’m fighting of the deadly “man flu” disease my ears get blocked. Over the course of a week my capacity to hear was increasingly impeded by a build-up of wax in my ear drums. I was feeling “full” and something that most of us take for granted – hearing – was becoming a challenge as people’s voices and sounds were more and more muffled.
Now this is not something new for me and so I treated my ears with wax softener and then it was time for a syringe to work its magic. A number of squirts later and suddenly my ears were no longer blocked and everyday sounds suddenly seemed so much clearer and sharper. It’s an amazing feeling – it’s like my hearing is taken to a whole new level. [Please don’t try this at home – seek medical attention. There is my health warning!]
As I reflect on the experience I am reminded that as well as physical ear blockages we all face the challenge of spiritual and emotional hearing blockages, particularly in the world we live in today.
In commencing a new series at Crossway last weekend, focusing on 1 Peter, Pastor Tim Piesse reminded us that we live in a “YouTube world” where we can look online and find out just about everything we want to know about anything, but with no guarantees on the reliability on the information or for that matter how helpful it will be.
Tim asked the great question: “What is your YouTube?” In other words, what and who are we listening to? What are our primary reference points in a world of information overload and media saturation? Who are we listening to in a world where we have so many conversations?
In such a world it is easy for our ears to get “blocked”. It is easy for our minds to dwell on things that hinder how we see ourselves, others and the world around us.
• We can so easily get seduced by the media’s flawed messages in regard success, self-worth, power, love, appearance, relationships and materialism.
• We can so easily get distracted by “noise” and lose sight of vision and purpose and the things that matter most in life.
• We can find ourselves over exposed to critical voices – family members, friends, colleagues – that consistently discourage us; that pull us down, rather than build us up.
• We can fail to take stock of internal voices that question our worth, limit our potential, harm our relationships and foster fear.
Yes, what we hear and what we do with what we hear on a day to day basis has a huge impact on our physical, emotional and spiritual health – the voices we listen to shape life direction and destiny.
Again, in the past week it has been good to remind myself of the need for regular spiritual and emotional “hearing” checks so I can ensure the voices in my world are filling my life with truth, hope, purpose, encouragement and grace.
In John 10:27 we read the words of Jesus: “My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me.”
Behind this verse is a beautiful picture of intimacy, connectedness and hope. Behind Jesus’ words is a wonderful invitation to journeying with him in all seasons of life.
At Crossway we talk often about growing as people who reflect the words, works and ways of Jesus. In other words, how do we allow Jesus to become our primary reference point in a world that offers so many choices, options and pathways.
I’m reminded of jumping into a hire car with my father a number of years ago in Sydney. I’m showing my age as this was pre-GPS days and we needed to make use of the UBD street directory. The only problem was the directory was ten years old. It didn’t even have the new south-western suburb we needed to visit listed in the index.
In a world of information overload and media saturation we are presented with so many “life maps” – we are offered so many different options and choices. There are many potential pathways, not to forget detours, distractions, potholes and risks.
The reality is that we need a reference point that is unchanging and unfailing and that is what relationship with Jesus offers us.
The older I get the simpler some things in life become.
One simple truth I hold fast to today is that I know I can’t rely on the voices of the world, the voices of others or my own inner voice. As helpful as all can be at times, they all are lacking at times. Their messages can often be distorted. My ears can become so blocked by competing voices that I can struggle to hear truth – I can struggle to hear what will help me most in life.
That brings me back to Jesus’ wonderful promise in John 10:27. Jesus wants to be in a deep, growing, loving and personal relationship with each of us and the stronger my bond with him, the greater my capacity to not only trust him in all circumstances, but the greater my ability to hear his voice – to hear his voice of truth in a world of noise and lies.
Just like wax softener and a syringe can work its magic on blocked ears, there are intentional things that I can do to keep my “spiritual ears” open.
• Praying regularly and remembering that listening to God is more important than telling God what we need.
• Opening up God’s Word with a spirit of expectation.
• Praying the promptable prayer “Come Holy Spirit”.
• Learning more and more about the words, works and ways of Jesus so we can mirror these in our attitude, speech, relationships, priorities, values and ethics.
• Intentionally placing myself around discerning, encouraging, Christ-like people – people worth listening to; people I need to listen to.
• Taking stock of what I am watching, listening and reading and how this can impact my thinking – negatively and positively.
• Trusting God more and more as we respond to the nudges of the Holy Spirit.
I’m thankful for Pastor Tim Piesse’s regular reminder that God is already at work in my world and my our life and that the Spirit has been given to each of us to help us be in tune with what God wants to
do. It’s good to live with our eyes and ears open to what the Spirit wants us to see and hear in the midst of everyday life. This is not weird, spooky stuff, this is sheep hearing the voice of their shepherd.
It feels so, so good to hear properly. Suddenly with clear ears I can hear differently. My mind is open to new sounds. Today, the Spirit is here – syringe in hand – ready for us to pray afresh: “Open my ears Lord, let me hear you anew”.