A few years ago, I was alarmed to find that my hearing was becoming very weak. It had declined to the point where I could hardly communicate with co-workers at my day job, with students in evening English classes I taught, and with children and their parents in my afternoon guitar lessons. I was pretty well convinced that excessive ear wax was to blame, and used a solution to clean out my ears. But after several weeks of this, the situation grew worse.
Although I’d been a Christian Scientist for seven or more years, my first recourse wasn’t prayer or calling a Christian Science practitioner for help.
When co-workers and students asked about my hearing, I admitted that I was having difficulty but said things would soon improve. I realized I could get by this way only for a limited time. My wife encouraged me to decide between relying on Christian Science and pursuing medical help, so I finally called a Christian Science practitioner. This was the turning point.
The practitioner advised me to look up references to hear in Mary Baker Eddy’s Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures as well as the definition of ears in the book’s Glossary (see p. 585). Several statements instruct that hearing involves spiritual understanding, not waves hitting an eardrum.
In the Bible’s book of Revelation when John repeatedly wrote, “He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches,” I saw how he was asking people to listen to and understand God. To me, that meant I should put aside habitual ways of thinking—
always pondering what I would next say to another person or even to God—and, instead, wait patiently for God to speak. I should stop pouring out torrents of words in my thought and, instead, listen to God.
A radio report helped me better understand this. A naturalist was discussing his research on bats. When he heard a recording of bats in a cave, he was tempted to listen with his normal habits. That would mean straining out “noise” to hear what was important to him. But he realized the only way to interpret the recording accurately was to set aside these habits and listen with an open thought. As he did so, the bats’ noises and movements clarified for him the size and shape of their cave and much other information he hadn’t before considered.
Similarly, as we listen better, God communicates to us much that we didn’t expect. If we’re constantly thinking that others are doing the wrong things, that they’re cramping our style, and that God ought to straighten them out, we might not hear anything but noise. But if we quietly let God guide our thoughts, we will find a right way to work with others.
Gradually, I understood this. My hearing did not instantly improve, but the next time I cleaned out my ears, I easily removed a lot of wax, and did so repeatedly for several days.
My hearing still seemed weak, so I called the practitioner again. This time she asked me to look up hearing and hear in the Bible. I then came across the Hebrew word Shema in my research, as in Shema Yisrael—“Hear, O Israel” (the first two words in a section of the Torah). This statement calls upon God’s people to listen attentively.
This suggested to me that I should think even more deeply about listening to God. Again it was clear: In many day-to-day and long-term decisions, I still wasn’t listening but instead doing all the “talking.” I was actively and aggressively pursuing, via human reason, what seemed best to me, charging ahead on the impulse of my own mental voice and listening for no one and nothing else.
The night of that realization, over a July 4th weekend, my wife and I went to a U2 concert at Soldiers Field in Chicago. Of course, I could hear the music because it was so loud. On the way out of the concert, though, I felt popping in my ears, and all the sound around me suddenly seemed twice as loud.
Yes, it had been fun to hear the full blast of the music, but I was now “hearing” something more important. It was God. I didn’t hear words, but I knew that God had, all along, been lovingly telling me, “Listen up!” and knowing that healed me.
Previously, whether I was home with my wife or at work with my co-workers, I constantly thought the other person in a conversation was saying the wrong thing or advocating the wrong course of action. Now I listened better without judgment and gave fairer consideration to others’ ideas.
That was two years ago, and I’m still pondering the lesson. My auditory functions are better than before I had the hearing issue. Still, I recognize how vital it is to continually listen better. The learning continues!
Grand Rapids, Michigan, US
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