Are You Listening to Me?
“Are you really listening to me?” How often have we used that phrase with our spouses? How much time do we invest in our relationship with each other, particularly as the early romance fades? In a similar way, how much time do we carve out in our relationship with the Lord to develop a personal relationship with Him?
As we journey into this Lenten season, we find many opportunities to help our faith grow—Lenten Bible study groups, Stations of the Cross, Eucharistic Adoration, evenings of reflection, confession. So, we try to commit to one or two extra thing. We often focus on what we are giving up, but Lent is also about what we take on.
We try to make God more a part of our lives, not just prayers at bedtime or grace at meal time, but a part of our entire day. This requires an effort to open ourselves up to the Lord through deliberate time for prayer, being intentionally present with Him. Too often, we have plenty of noise and distractions in our life and we rush through our prayers almost as if we are ‘checking a box’ to get them done. We can approach prayer as a reversal of 1 Samuel 3:1-10, and we seem to say, “Listen, Lord, for your servant is speaking.”
A similar situation occurs within our marriages and families. When we first dated, we could talk on the phone for hours or write each other letters daily. As the years go on, we do communicate, but sometimes that requires effort. Do you sometimes feel as though your spouse is perhaps physically present, but not actually listening? (Yes, guys, I am talking about us husbands here).
We spend most evenings together and we can be in the same room—one reading or on the computer, the other doing Sudoku puzzles or on their smart phone and quite content with the quiet. But, unless we make the effort to share the events of our day, or sit next to each other on the sofa, we will miss the opportunity to communicate and deepen our relationship. When our children were young we would plan a date night—out for dinner and perhaps a trip to a home improvement or grocery store—in order to chat uninterrupted. As our kids got older it was easier to get out for a date night, but even then an evening walk around the neighborhood gave us the chance to catch up (without little ears listening). Traditionally, we planned a getaway most years to celebrate our anniversary; sometimes an overnight close by, sometimes a longer trip (a great anniversary gift from our parents who cared for the kids). Now with kids around less frequently, you would think that would allow for lots of communication; but it still takes effort to be intentionally present to each other.
We also made an effort from early in our married life to pray together before bed. We still end our day with prayers together (shout out for Magnificat!). Additionally, a lesson we’ve learned over the years is, don’t go to sleep mad at each other. End your disagreements from the day that same day. It can be a challenge to engage in late night conversation (listening openly and responding charitably) to resolve an issue. But neither is it fun to try to sleep when you are angry!
Over the years, we invested much time in our children – at family dinners, sports, school, and church events…never a dull moment. As we used to tell people, “we are investing in futures.” The dynamics are different now with adult children, but even now we have to make an effort to visit, hangout/skype, or communicate together since we live in three different states. Our relationships—with our spouse, with our family, or with the Lord—require investment, attention, and intention.
Keep communicating. Keep listening. Keep the Faith.