Learning to listen
Most men I know don’t keep a journal. Or if they do, they don’t tell too many people about it. Friends they trust with this personal information know enough to keep quiet; it works better that way. That’s because journaling is not an activity that obviously earns respect.
Unfortunately, this reflective exercise comes across as a touchy-feely pastime that by and large is a waste of time. After all, there are important things to do, places to go, people to see, etc. And of course, that is true.
Being active is usually viewed as been honorable for a reason.
“So what are you doing tomorrow afternoon?”
“Oh, I think I’ll just stay home all day, drink some herbal tea, snuggle up with my blanket, and write in my journal.”
That response will go over really well with all the guys at work or down at the gym; they will be impressed. It goes without saying, that everyone will want to be your friend.
But what if you changed the name? What if you called it, “the-book-I-use-to-unclutter-my-thoughts-sort-through-my-emotions-and-more-effectively-focus-my-energy?” Now that might be different. That sounds more exciting and productive. With a little marketing magic, and a more masculine setting, this journaling idea might begin to make sense.
Stop for a moment and consider that most world-changing activity began with somebody sitting down and writing something down. For better or worse, that’s how it tends to work. It’s possible to merely make a mental note, but a hard copy works even better. And most women figured this out a long time ago.
To be effective, action and adventure needs to be combined with and preceded by silence, solitude, reflection, and prayer. When we have time to slow down, evaluate what we are doing with our lives, and communicate with our Creator, etc. we often forget to pick up a pen or find a keyboard. As a result, insights that should have been identified and acted upon go unnoticed.
And that’s not helpful for anyone in the long run.
Most of us do not intuitively have the gripping sense of clarity and direction that characterized the life of Christ. Even this morning, the person I read about in Mark’s gospel came across looking more like a lightning bolt than an ordinary man. Yeah, I know, there are two realities going on here at once. Every illustration is lacking, but I have been to the Twin Cities in Minnesota which happen to be two and yet one.
But the amount of pure energy and focused resolve on display in the New Testament is still sometimes staggering.
Is it an exaggeration to say that what Jesus did in three short years is much more than most men will every do in a lifetime? I don’t think so. And while this comparison is unfair, the question remains: How will you and I ever know what we really need to focus on if we never take the time to stop and reflect and really listen?
You don’t need me to tell you that this world is filled with noise and all sorts of distractions. We all know that everything we hear is not of equal value and that the voices around us are relentless. And yet, it is still possible to occasionally wake up with the sudden realization that we have been listening to the wrong ones.
This happens from time to time.
But the internal noise is sometimes more subtle and difficult to discern. We aren’t always sure what to make of it or how to respond. And yet, may I suggest that this type of noise can be just as damaging in terms of the overall impact on our lives.
I’ll give you a strange example from my own life: The internal voices I typically hear on a daily basis constantly communicate condemnation in a general, hazy, or vague way. This is what I hear over and over and over again on the inside. This undesirable background noise has been going on for years and I can’t seem to find a reliable way to completely turn it off.
Many of you know exactly what I am talking about.
So how would you interpret this experience? Are we both going crazy? Is it time for another brain transplant? Does this suggest that I am too religious for my own good?
Over they years, I have come to realize that this is definitely not God’s way of trying to get an important message through to me. Not at all. While there may be a number of secondary sources and reasons, I’ve got a pretty good idea of where these messages are coming from.
So there you go. You see, I have benefitted from simply writing this down. It’s out in the open now. And it is even more clear who I should listen to.
Maybe I should take my own advice and start another journal.
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