Luke 21:29-38 (CEV)
29 Then Jesus told them a story:
When you see a fig tree or any other tree 30 putting out leaves, you know that summer will soon come. 31 So, when you see these things happening, you know that God’s kingdom will soon be here. 32 You can be sure that some of the people of this generation will still be alive when all of this takes place. 33 The sky and the earth won’t last forever, but my words will.
34 Don’t spend all of your time thinking about eating or drinking or worrying about life. If you do, the final day will suddenly catch you 35 like a trap. That day will surprise everyone on earth. 36 Watch out and keep praying that you can escape all that is going to happen and that the Son of Man will be pleased with you.
37 Jesus taught in the temple each day, and he spent each night on the Mount of Olives. 38 Everyone got up early and came to the temple to hear him teach.
I’ve discovered in the last few years that there are a lot of things required to be able to hear well.
The sound has to pass through your outer ear, through your middle ear and all the way into your cochlea. There, the fluid in the cochlea needs to vibrate, sending a message through the hearing nerve to the brain. And then once it arrives in the brain, the brain has to be able to process the information it receives – to sort and stack and organize it by importance, and then to make sense of the meaning of the sounds it has received.
Those of us – like myself – who have good hearing don’t have to even think about any of these steps.
With zero effort at all – no movement, no increased concentration, no nothing – I can tell you that right now the washing machine is running at the other end of the house, the heating is on beside me, the wind just picked up outside, and that the refrigerator is going through a cooling cycle.
And whenever something is easy for us we tend to take it for granted – which creates three problems.
The first is that we can just slowly see our hearing lessen over time without really ever noticing that it’s happening.
We get focused in on something and tune out the background noise.
We have too much exposure to noise at certain levels and it gradually makes it harder to hear.
The second is that we don’t value how fragile our hearing is – until something traumatic happens and we lose our hearing all of a sudden.
The third one is that we can get annoyed at ourselves or other people for not managing what comes so easily to so many people.
And I think that thinking about hearing and hearing difficulties can be really important when we think about hearing Jesus.
It’s easy to get distracted by the things around us (‘about eating or drinking or worrying about life’ as our passage says) and slowly find our hearing fade away without every really noticing.
Or to hear the same thing over and over so many times that it becomes dull and quiet and lifeless, making it harder and harder to hear the invitation to a life lived out to the full.
Unless (or until) we experience trauma, we might not realize how much harder a layer of pain – like scar tissue on the ear canal – can make it to hear what Jesus has to say. It can leave us feeling like we were suddenly cut off – like Jesus just stopped talking to us entirely – unless we recognize that the trauma has damaged our hearing, not stopped Jesus from speaking.
And until we understand these realities, it may be really easy for us to look at ourselves or someone else – to look at choices or actions or words or life realities and think, “why don’t I just …” or “why don’t they just …” as if it was easy to hear and simply a deliberate choice to refuse to do the obvious thing.
But if we assume that they or we might have hearing loss – maybe from distraction or from slow, cumulative fatigue or maybe from trauma – then it changes what we do about this invitation to hear from Jesus.
You see, if I’m talking to my friend with auditory processing disorder (where the brain struggles to process the information it receives from the ear) then I’m going to turn off the radio, sit down across from them, and have the conversation in an otherwise quiet space.
If I’m speaking to my friend who has hearing loss and lip-reads, I try to speak more into her ‘good ear’ and to speak slowly and enunciate.
If I want to communicate with my friend who is deaf, I will do my best to use my limited sign language skills, to speak slowly and clearly so that she can augment what I can sign with lip reading, and to be willing to work at it long enough to be sure we’ve understood each other.
So if I want to hear well from Jesus – if I want those around me to hear well from Jesus – than I am going to have to think highly enough of what he has to say to be willing to put the work in to make it accessible to me or to those around me who are struggling to hear.
- What will we need to do differently ourselves to be able to hear Jesus better?
- And what will we need to do differently with those we love and care about to enable them to be able to hear from Jesus better?
- And what has this book of Luke given you in terms of motivation to want to make sure that everyone has the chance to hear better?