wisdom starts with listening

I am preparing for a retreat I’ll be speaking at in a few weeks on the topic of wisdom (a slight modification from the one I did in September 2013 at WRPC), and I am struck again with how important listening is. I’ve been looking at the verse in James 1:19 which says –

“Know this, my beloved brothers, let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger …”

Whew. There’s the trifecta of what I’m not good at. I am slow to hear, quick to speak, and quick to become angry. Just come be a fly on the wall any morning in my kitchen to see my folly on full display. It happens with regularity. One of the twins begins demanding something (they take turns with this, I swear); I get frustrated because I’m already busy trying to do something else they were asking/demanding the minute prior; and I don’t hear them or pay attention. I am quick to spout off with how frustrated I feel; and then it becomes full-blown anger before too long. Refrigerator doors are slammed, their food is slapped onto their plates with vehemence, and I become the martyr-mother-with-a-cause. Not only am I far from a picture of serving with love, but I am empty of self-control and wisdom. My reaction causes theirs to intensify. And so we sit down to eat breakfast as three very foolish women, one who’s old enough to know and act differently.

How do I get wisdom in that scenario? What is my hope? It starts with listening. Being quick to hear God’s voice of love and the truth of His presence and acquired wisdom given to me down from the ages. I need to learn to be quick to hear his compassion for me, the tired-in-the-mornings mom who needs her coffee and doesn’t wake up quickly. He is speaking to me through the “wisdom of the ages,” which often sounds like this:

  • Stay calm, and they may not become calm immediately, but at least you won’t escalate things.
  • You can only be in control of you; don’t try to be in control of them. Realize what you can control, and provide consequences calmly. Such as sending the tantrum-ing three-year-old to her room until she can calm down.
  • Catering to their demands will only increase their whines; so will blowing up in frustrated anger in the face of all their complaints.
  • Look at your own heart – you’re just as whiny and demanding of those around you and God, but you’re just better at masking it.
  • Continue to serve with love, confident that God sees the faith it takes to continue to do so when bombarded with two demanding preschoolers.

Once I silence my own angry demands in order to tune in to the wisdom of the Spirit speaking to my heart, then I am able to move on to speaking what needs to be spoken, and slowing down my anger. It really is a self-perpetuating cycle. Start with being quick to anger, the words will spill out too quickly for anyone’s good, and there will be no listening. But reverse this and begin with listening. Then you’ll be calm enough to speak and you keep anger in its place. The question really is who I am listening to – if it’s my selfishness, then I’ll be quick to speak and get angry; if it’s my Creator, I can afford to be slow in speech and allow his words to mollify my angry heart before it spews onto another.