Last week, I started taking a deeper look at the things I had learned preparing to give a talk at church. I had to laugh at myself as I prepared this next section of the talk, because I had been so excited that my talk had nothing to do with music! It did, however, have a lot of correlation to one of my duties as a music teacher — helping people learn how to listen.
Listening, whether it is to a teacher, a parent, a friend, or God, is a learned skill. It is not something that some people have magically from their genetics and the rest of us just have to watch and drool.
Of course, this also means that learning the skill of listening, as with any other skill that can be learned, requires us to be patient with the process. We will have days when we feel like we’re really making progress, and days when we wonder if we’ve gotten anywhere at all. True growth and progress come from consistently trying to be a little better than before.
The thoughts for this section of my talk (and for this blog today) have come from
- My personal thoughts and experiences
- Various scriptures
- “Ears to Hear” by Henry B Eyring
Being Physically Present
Even though this seems likes a no-brainer, I am constantly amazed at the people who expect to have tons of spiritual knowledge and skip church meetings. I think knowing that there are people who are operating under the “I’m good enough/I know enough” paradigm and believe that as long as they meet certain basic standards, they will be welcomed into all the glory God has to offer bothers me even more. Both mindsets are deceptive and cheat anyone holding them out of great spiritual blessings.
The life of a true disciple of Christ isn’t supposed to be easy and convenient! The purpose of mortality, of coming to earth to learn, was to grow. Growth requires overcoming, sacrificing, and committing.
In order to find true happiness, in order to learn all that we need to learn, and in order to become who we need to become so that we are COMFORTABLE living with Heavenly Father for eternity, we have to actually SHOW UP.
Leaving scriptures laying out of the table doesn’t fill us with the Spirit. Reading the scriptures, praying to understand the language of the scriptures, actually spending time reading about what we have read will fill us. Having a cute needlepoint piece hanging on the wall with the word “prayer” doesn’t bend our wills to Heavenly Father’s and doesn’t help us search deep into our souls – actually getting on our knees and crying out to God will. Even with things like general conference, where we can go back and watch at will, arranging our lives to be there in the moment as the servants of God are first speaking brings power and inspiration that waiting to hear those words until it is convenient just doesn’t.
Ephesians 2:20 tells us that our faith (and our church) is built on the foundation of apostles and prophets, with Christ being the chief cornerstone. The cornerstone has the job of bearing most of the weight of the building, and of being the standard that all the other stones in the foundation are squared to. The apostles and prophets are squared to the will of the Lord in all that they teach us! When we listen, we can have the assurance from the Holy Spirit that they are speaking exactly what the Savior would have them teach us.
As a quick aside, I am not saying that every person has to be at every meeting every time. Life is deliberately set up so that we have to choose. I am trying to set out correct principles as I understand them, knowing that every person will have to choose between competing priorities.
My experience has been that making sacrifices to choose the things of eternity whenever possible brings forth untold blessings and that I choose contrary to the principles taught in the church only when I am certain that I am being led by the Holy Spirit to take a different direction. (My best example is taking a child to a required band competition on a Saturday and asking the other children to sit in the car with me to listen to conference. My standard would have been to be at the church or at home where we could tune in better. The choice didn’t make me a popular parent, but it did let my children know what I value!)
The bottom line is, if I intend to receive the promised blessings I have to show up. I have to open my scriptures and read. I have to actually kneel and pray. I have to go to my meetings and be committed and consistent.
Although I will get into the mechanics of good listening habits next week, I do want to mention that being present takes more than just having your body warm a pew. Getting there is only the start!
In spiritual matters, we have to come spiritually prepared. When we come to the scriptures, when we attend a meeting, we have to be prepared to be fed. We have to put aside the things of the world and calm our spirits so that we can hear with our hearts. We have to know what our questions are and tuned in to what we are reading and hearing so that we can receive inspiration from the Spirit.
Going back to what I wrote last week, we are most likely to be physically and spiritually present when we are desperate. My experiences with Christ, my Savior, and with my Heavenly Father have taught me that they are desperate to have us know them!! They are just waiting to talk to us through spiritual channels and let us know who we are and how much we are loved! I have become desperate to be close to my Savior and my Heavenly Father. I find that I desire to be where I can learn more and feel more of that love and acceptance.
My hope is that you, too, will be able to feel this love and become desperate to have more.