Thursday, April 27, 2017

Reflections on Bonhoeffer’s Life Together – 87

“Those who cannot listen long and patiently will always be talking past others, and finally no longer will even notice it. Those who think their time is too precious to spend listening will never really have time for God and others, but only for themselves and for their own words and plans.” Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Life Together, Fortress Press, 2015 (Reader’s Edition), pages 75 - 76.

“There is also a kind of listening with half an ear that presumes already to know what the other person has to say…And it is certain that here, too, in our attitude toward other Christians we simply see reflected our own relationship to God” (page 76).

Is today my day or is it God’s day? This is a question I must ask myself when I arise and also ask throughout the day. Am I in such a hurry to consume the hours of the day that I usurp the place of God? Do I talk past God and others? Do I half listen to God and others? Do I presume to know what others have to say? Do I presume to know what God has to say?

Can there be any greater “task” than to listen to God, and then to listen to others with the ears of God?

We approach the day the way a sprinter approaches a race; when we arise it is as if we are out of the starting blocks and we don’t slow down until we retire to bed. Even then many of us don’t sleep well, for we lie in bed between the race we’ve just run with thoughts of the race we will run in the day ahead. Listening requires trusting rest in God, but we dare not rest or we will miss something and yet in seeking not to miss anything we can miss everything. Trusting rest in God means that the day is not mine but God’s; since the day is God’s I am called to acknowledge His ordering of the day and I am prepared to stop and listen to Him and to others. 

When we order our days too often we order them with no expectation of God speaking to us and God reordering our day – therefore we may have every minute scheduled – and when every minute is scheduled we are always thinking of what we need to do the next minute, and the minute beyond that, and the minute beyond that – we cannot listen to God and others when we are always thinking, “I need to do this now, I need to do that next, and that next, and that next.” People become things to be processed minute by minute, task by task. And God? What of God? Surely He understands that we have things to do, surely God is practical about these things.

A sad irony is that busyness is not fruitfulness, and that since busyness is not conducive to creativity or quality thinking that busyness retards progress and deep growth in individuals and groups. Busy people not only pass people by, they pass by opportunities.

Do we presume to know what God is saying? Do we assume lordship over the day? Does the day belong to us or to God? How can we “redeem the time” if we are always giving away the time by insisting on our own agendas, our own importance, and our own willful insistence that we must move on to the next thing?

How sad that we, who were made for relationship with God and with each other, throw away opportunities for relationship countless times during our days and weeks.

This is a matter of lordship – who is the lord over today? How does the way I live answer that question?

At the end of today, at the end of every day – let us ask, “Who I have listened to today? How have I listened to God today?”

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