I plugged my ears with my headphones as I sat down for my manicure.
I smiled at the aesthetician and gave her the purple nail color I had picked out for my nails.
“Nice color.” She peered at my chipped nails through her glasses.
Eager to tune in to my favorite podcast, I pressed play on my phone before entrusting my hand to my experienced aesthetician. The podcast hosts who were discussing creativity and productivity captured my interest. I paid little attention to the elderly woman until she began painting my nails. When she reached my second nail, she closed her eyes. Was she nodding off? Annoyed, I watched as the elderly lady painted and repainted my nails, struggling to stay awake.
When she finished the manicure and started the pedicure, I unplugged my headphones. I began talking with the lady, hoping to keep her awake.
“How is your business doing during this pandemic?”
She gathered her supplies and examined my feet. “I have to pay rent whether the salon is open or closed.” She looked at me for a brief moment and looked away. “It has not been easy.”
I searched for words to comfort her but came back empty. I remembered it was the Chinese New Year. “Happy New Year! Are you doing anything special with your family?” “I cannot take any days off. I have to work hard.” The aesthetician glanced at me, nail filer in hand. “But no matter how hard I work, it’s never enough.”
“I understand. I can’t imagine how difficult that must be.”
My heart sank. I felt a pang of guilt for being irritated at her earlier. I noticed the dark circles underneath the aesthetician’s eyes and the lines carved on her forehead and cheeks. How many times did she nod off at work from exhaustion?
I asked more questions to get to know her. I was all ears as she narrated her struggles.
When the pedicure was done and paid for, I thanked her and gave her a hug with my eyes. Back in my car I prayed for her. And for me. Why did it take me so long to give the lady my full attention? How could I be more present and listen to those around me? I asked God to teach me how to listen well. Like Him.
One of my favorite qualities of God is that He is an amazing listener.
We can pray with confidence because our God, the God of heaven and earth, promises to hear us:
This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us. 1 John 5:14 NIV).
He gives us complete attention.
He gives us His complete attention: For the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous and his ears are attentive to their prayer, but the face of the Lord is against those who do evil. 1 Peter 3:12 NIV
Every word, groan, sigh, and whisper. Nothing escapes His ears.
How can we be good listeners like God?
As Christian communicators and leaders, most of us spend time trying to communicate our wisdom, but it is crucial that we also cultivate the skill of listening. Here are three ways you can learn to “listen” better:
1. Be available
While waiting in line at Costco or at the post office we can put away our phones. Our body language signals our availability and willingness to participate in conversation.
2. Ask questions
A simple conversation-starter like, “How are you doing today?” shows people we are interested in them.
3. Welcome interruptions
Sometimes, God puts us in situations which require us to sacrifice our own comforts or change our plans and pay attention to the needs of those around us. At the nail salon, I didn’t want to be disturbed. I wanted to simply relax by enjoying my podcast. But I believe God orchestrated the events that day so that I could put aside my agenda and give the aesthetician the gift of listening.
Like God, we can love others by lending them our ears.
As we hear people share, the Holy Spirit gives us spiritual insight into their condition and helps us discern how we can serve them. Listening opens the door for God to step in and use us as His instruments on earth.
Writers and speakers, let us keep one ear pressed to the bosom of our Heavenly Father so that we are tuned in to His thoughts and plans. And let us keep another ear peeled to the cries and appeals of the people around us. As we become better listeners, we will become better servants and God will use us in a mighty way to accomplish His purposes on earth.