Friday, May 8, 2009

I am Heard!

Today: I am heard

Psalm 69:33 (Amplified Bible)

For the Lord Jehovah Shama (Shaw-Mah') hears the poor and needy and despises not His prisoners (His miserable and wounded ones).

Have you ever been talking to someone and realized they weren't listening to you? Maybe their eyes darted back and forth watching everything else going on in the room. Maybe they were zoning out, planning what they could say next. Whatever they were doing, you knew they hadn't really heard a word you were saying.

Moms tend to do this too with their kids. Johnny will come home from school and be so excited he will burst if he can't chatter a hundred miles per minute about his day. Meanwhile Mom stands at the stove trying to concentrate so she doesn't burn dinner.

Or have you ever noticed how the kids seem to need your undivided attention when you're on the phone? All day long they played just fine in the other room out of your sight, but when the phone rings, they're right there needing your listening ears?

We all need to know that the people we talk to are listening to us. Being heard helps us feel validated, like we are important, not merely afterthoughts or nuisances.

With people, we can tell they are really hearing us by their nonverbal cues like how they stand before us with an open, accepting posture. They will not cross their arms or legs and will lean slightly forward toward us or lean their head toward us. Making direct eye contact is another way to let us know they hear us.

A good listener gives verbal clues too - like repeating back what they heard us say. They will nod and say "yes," "That's right," or "Uh-huh." They will also respond appropriately when we pose a question or pause for a response.

So if we rely so heavily on verbal and visual clues to know we've been heard by a person a we talk to them, how do we know an unseen, formless God hears us?

In Psalm 69:33, the Hebrew name for God - Jehovah Shama - is used. The name means "I Am the One who hears you (listens to you). By His very nature God is a Listener. Knowing He cannot lie, especially when speaking of Himself, we know He listens when we call.

We know He listens because of the scriptural examples He gives us. I'm thinking of the story of Hagar. Twice she encountered the God who sees and hears. She named her son Ishmael which means "God has heard" based on her experience with Him in Genesis 16.

We also know we are heard by our own past experiences with God. At times He answered our prayers instantaneously. Other times, He gave us assurances that the answer was on the way - like a "hug" through a scripture, a friend who knew exactly what we needed or maybe even a physical sensation of being held and comforted in response to a prayer we prayed or a need we expressed.

Still, during my 34 years in ministry, I've heard so many people say, "I feel like my prayers aren't going any higher than the ceiling. God's not listening to me." The problem isn't that God has failed to listen to us. It's that they don't FEEL heard or validated. And because they don't feel Him, He must not be listening. So they pull back from Him and begin to wallow in their feelings of low self worth.

In other words, they begin to listen to the lies that they have believed most of their life. "I must not be good enough for God to answer me." "What have I done wrong to make God hate me?" They begin to turn their eyes inward, rather than upward and miss the little hugs and reassurances God sends along the way.

In counseling with these women, I usually try to encourage them to work at drawing closer to the Lord, rather than worrying about the answers to prayer. As they begin to focus on Him, they can see the little signs all around them that encourage and fortify their hearts.
"God really does listen to me," they say with an incredulous smile as they relate the littlest details where they see His hand at work.

We know we are heard when we turn our eyes on Jesus and look full in His wonderful face. The things of this earth really do grow strangely dim in the light of His glory and grace!

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