I sat on the carport today since the spring breeze is still cool, and relatively dry. I was working on Proverbs with my trusty bodyguards lying at my feet, tails occasionally swishing sand across the concrete. When we first moved here, twenty-nine years ago now, it was the quietest place we had ever lived. No neighbors revving up engines of various kinds, no traffic on the highway, certainly no sirens wailing in the air. In the past two or three weeks alone, I have heard sirens three times, which is about as many times as I heard them the whole 29 years before. People are moving here to have what we have, and in the process, destroying it.
But that morning I was suddenly struck by how quiet it was—not exactly like all those years ago, but close. I sat still and really listened; half a dozen different birds sounds, chirps, tweets, squawks, caws, shrieks, and crows; wings flapping in the oaks; a June bug buzzing over our heads in the sycamore, two planes droning overhead, one a jet and the other a single-engine prop; hummingbirds humming and squeaking at the feeder; a semi roaring faintly down the highway to the west beyond the woods, hitting the speed bumps a good half mile away with a rhythmic brrrrump—brrrrump--brump, brump, brump.
Even the dogs seemed to realize how quiet things were, and they sat there with me, watching and listening. Amazing things happen when you sit quietly and just listen. A limb, evidently weakened by age and a recent wind, suddenly cracked and fell just up the driveway, a little flock of sparrows landed barely two feet off the concrete slab, hopping around on the ground as if totally unaware that a human and two dogs were nearby; a pileated woodpecker suddenly swooped down across the drive and landed on the water oak trunk and began pecking for his lunch; a lizard crept out onto the steps and puffed out his red balloon of a throat when he suddenly realized we were there, and a black and yellow swallowtail butterfly landed on an azalea limb close enough for me to see its spots.
I have heard that Abraham Lincoln was fond of saying, “Better to be quiet and thought a fool than to open your mouth and remove all doubt.” I didn’t realize that he was paraphrasing one of the proverbs: Even a fool when he holds his peace is counted as wise; when he shuts his lips, he is esteemed as prudent, 17:28. I suppose Lincoln’s version was a bit more colorful, but you get the point. Amazing things can happen when you keep your mouth shut. People may actually think you are wise!
Someone else has also noted that when your mouth is open, your ears stop working, which is just a cute way of saying that when you are talking you can’t listen, and most of us need to do much more listening than talking. I would guess that the majority of times we find ourselves in hot water it is because we talked when we should have been quiet. Is there a problem in the home? At work? With a neighbor? Look back in your mind and ‘listen’ to what happened. Amazing things can happen when you listen. You will probably see that it all began with a word NOT fitly spoken. As James said: Let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak and slow to wrath, for the wrath of man does not work the righteousness of God, 1:19,20.
Listening is also a good way to serve others. Don’t be so quick to give advice unless it is specifically asked for. Don’t be so quick to take over the conversation with how you handled something similar. Amazing things can happen when you listen. By having a sympathetic listener, many people can figure their way out of problems on their own, and they will be so grateful for your “help.”
Ahem, men—she doesn’t want you to fix it, she just wants you to listen. You will become her hero. Truly amazing things can happen if you just listen.
And always listen to God. Too many times we are explaining ourselves to him instead. Imagine that. This is God we are talking about and we feel the need to explain something to him? Listen instead. Maybe the problem is we don’t want to hear what he has to say to us. So if you do answer back, listen to that too. You might realize your error and repent.
Amazing things can happen when you sit quietly and listen.
And Moses said, the Lord God will raise up for you a prophet like me from your brothers. You shall listen to him in whatever he tells you. And it shall be that every soul who does not listen to that prophet shall be destroyed from the people, Acts 3:22,23.