Each day at work I turn the oldies station on the radio. The oldies station probably has fifty songs that they play over and over again. The oldies are songs I used to listen to in the seventies and some from the eighties. There is one song I hear every day called “The Living Years”, by Mike & the Mechanics. The chorus has the words “You can listen as well as you hear.” The song talks about regrets as the singers dad dies and he never told him how much of an impact he made on his life. Those words though “You can listen as well as you hear” seems so deep and got me thinking. First of all I am all about the lyrics in a song. I can’t truly like a song if I don’t understand the lyrics. Beat alone doesn’t do it for me. The song needs to be real with meaning that I can relate to. So I thought some more about these lyrics “you can listen as well as you hear” and then I thought about my first trip as a student to campus.
It was student orientation in the summer of 1975 and new students were expected to spend some time on campus and get accustomed to what life would be like as a student. I was looking forward to meeting my roommate and making a new friend with someone I had plenty in common with. After all we both would have college in front of us and probably the same type of experiences leading up to it. When my roommate finally entered the room one thing struck me, he was blind. He guided himself with his cane and here I was thinking “we’ll have nothing in common.” Our backgrounds were totally different growing up, yet having him as a roommate made me both thankful and admiring of him as a person. His name was Paul and he had been blind since he was three. There was another guy named Mike who was staying in the room next door. All three of us got to know each other that night and later Mike left for the bar. When he got back Mike was pretty well wasted. I heard Mike’s thick tongue trying to communicate with us. I heard, but Paul listened. “I’m really concerned about Mike”, he confided in me when Mike left the room. Paul was an amazing guy as so many sightless people are. He had to memorize the dips, roads and hills of campus while at the same time doing all of the stuff I was doing. Never once did I hear Paul complain. He was so focused on where he was and where he was going! When I was confused on what courses to sign up for it was Paul that guided my thought process! Paul compensated for his lack of sight with increased emphasis on his other senses. Paul was an excellent listener!
Those words keep coming back in my mind “you can listen as well as you hear.” I have to ask myself if that is true? I can say that sometimes I am a good listener. Other times for one reason or another distractions get in the way. If I am in the middle of watching a sporting event and especially if it is coming down to the final minutes of a close game, people have found that I’m not listening to the outside world very well. You see most of the time it isn’t that people have a lack of hearing problem, they have a lack of listening problem. Hearing comes naturally as the noise does something to your ear and you realize someone is talking or some other noise is going on. Listening is something that we decide to do. When we listen we let the words go into our brain and we think about and interpret what was said or heard and how it effects us.
In Matthew chapter 13 starting with verse 3 Jesus told a parable saying “A sower went out to sow and as he sowed some seed fell along the path and the birds came and devoured them. Other seeds fell on rocky ground, where they had not much soil, and immediately they sprang up, since they had no depth of soil, but when the sun rose they were scorched, and since they had no root they withered away. Other seeds fell upon thorns and the thorns grew and choked them. Other seeds fell on good soil and brought forth grain, some a hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty. You may wonder how this parable relates to the listening delema I sometimes have? Our choices can be compared to the ground where the seeds land. If we choose to hear the word but not listen it is like the seed landing on hard ground and not getting properly rooted. Those seeds will soon die as they were not planted properly within us. The seeds that landed in fertile soil are like our choice to not only hear the message but to listen to it and let it penetrate and grow in our hearts!
In horse racing you will see the horses with blinders on. Blinders help the horse concentrate only on what is ahead of them. There is no reason for the horse to get distracted with the blinders on. He can concentrate on moving forward without losing focus.
The songwriter indirectly brings up the point that we won’t live forever in this life. In the song he had regrets that he didn’t say some of the things to his father that he felt in his heart. Now his father is gone and it is too late to tell him. He sadly states that “I wish I would have told him, in the living years.” I think most of us have this same type of regret, I know I do. Maybe you have some of the same types of guilt feelings too. God understands our guilt and he is there to lovingly forgive us. We can’t go back, but we can improve with God’s help! Be careful with your words because words are powerful. They can encourage or discourage. They can lift people up or bring them down. Going forward make sure you tell people how much they mean to you in the living years, I know I will! Take time to listen and understand without letting the disagreements become bigger than the many points you agree on. Showing your love and letting your loved ones know how you feel will save feeling regret later. Show that loved one how much they mean to you not only by your words, but your actions too!
From a spiritual side, with God’s help let us soften our spiritual soil. Let us make the choice to be spiritual listeners instead of just spiritual hearers. Let us be like the blind kid Paul, who compensated for his lack of sight by being extra sensitive in other areas. We too lack sight in the spiritual realm. We don’t physically see God but we can hear him if we listen closely. Like the race horses we need to make sure our spiritual blinders are in place because then we can focus completely on God’s voice without distractions. When we let his seed penetrate into our minds and being, it will change us as the spiritual root goes deep into our hearts! Only then can we truly say that we are listening as well as we hear!