Rev.  Jan Bihl
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Listening the Other Way

There are different ways to listen. Transactional and transformational are two distinct modes of listening.

Transactional listening is the kind that gets things done. It’s efficient and listens for the facts, information and instructions. It’s the subject-to-object-type of listening we are more accustomed to. Much of our listening today is transactional. And with more and more of our transactions becoming automated and less personal, we can experience feelings of frustration, stress, and fear. Transactions are necessary, often efficient, but hardly ever heart-transforming or relationship-building.

 In contrast, transformational listening is the personal, subject-to-subject listening that meets our human need for meaning and connection with what is fully alive.  It’s being-with, being open, being receptive, being present…able to experience love, belonging, fellowship.

It’s listening the other way.

Like the young girl in the story The Other Way to Listen we can learn to listen “..to hear cornfields sing...or hear a whole sky full of stars…or a cactus blooming.

Like Mary and Joseph in our Scripture stories today, we can learn to hear angels’ messages.

  •  In the midst of her ordinary life, a life in the oppressive lordships of Caesar and Herod, yearning, along with her people, for a saviour…and in the midst of her ordinary day, Mary encounters an unexpected messenger, a call, an invitation, a promise…
  • In a dream, in the midst of his plans, his strategies, his righteous intentions, Joseph encounters an astonishing message for his time…

Both are able to hear and respond in a way that flows from the other way to listen.

 What about you?

 The Season of Advent is a space and time for each of us to practice the other way to listen so that, in the midst of our ordinary days, our traditions, our dreams, we are attuned to the movement of the Spirit… the Presence of Love, the Holy Nudge…a messenger, a call, an invitation, a promise, an encouragement…

 Perhaps it’s at Starbucks over a latte, or driving to work, or folding laundry, or decorating the tree…or at worship, or lighting a prayer candle, or reading Scripture or a good novel or a children’s story… or watching a powerful movie…or in conversation…

The other way to listen is a way of being and a way of relating…to God, to ourselves, and to those around us. It is a way of being in the moment, being present, being open…a way of learning to be ourselves. It opens and attunes us to the unexpected and extraordinary within the ordinary.

The other way to listen takes time, intention, practice… How is it going for you?

God invites you and me to this transformational listening…to attend to and choose love and purpose, peace and joy… especially amidst the potential stress, frustration, distractions, and negativity of the day. I wonder how we will respond.