Listening is something most of us are admittedly not very good at, but it is the key to discerning the presence and work of God in our lives. It isn’t a difficult task reserved only for the spiritual elite.
Awhile back, John Ortberg wrote a book called “The Me I Want To Be: Becoming God’s Best Version Of You.” I recommend this book as an introduction to spiritual formation. It’s not nearly as academic as it is devotional and immediately applicable.
A key concept from John’s book was “Try Softer.” Here’s how he described it:
“Often the people in the Gospels who got into the most trouble with Jesus were the ones who thought they were working hardest on their spiritual life. They were trying so hard to be good that they could not stop thinking about how hard they were trying. That got in the way of their loving other people.” (p.71)
“If trying harder is producing growth in your spiritual life, keep it up. But if it is not, here is an alternative: Try softer. Try better. Try different. A river of living water is now available, but the river is the Spirit. It is not you.” (p.71)
As I have recognized my own penchant to try harder, I have come to a place of surrender. I completely recognize that no amount of effort on my end, apart from the power of the Holy Spirit at work in me, is sufficient and able to bring me to a place of lasting change.
Pay Attention to Who You’re Listening To
My journey of transformation by trying softer has brought me to a place of deep “listening” to God and to others. It’s been a journey of learning to pay attention and recognize the voice of truth and life rather than the voice of the thief (John 10:10).
Listening is a matter of humble curiosity. We aren’t able to listen well if we are more concerned with being heard, or being right, or being thought of in a certain light.