Did you know that about 70% of our waking hours are spent communicating (writing, reading, speaking, or listening)? One thing that we sometimes forget is that communication must be understood to be effective. That's so simple that it seems that it's not worth mentioning, but how many times have we sent a text that made complete sense to us but when the recipient received it they did not understand what we meant? That's not even taking into consideration the times we write or say something that just doesn't make sense...I use speech to text all of the time and sometimes I hit "send" without proofreading what I am sending. Sometimes those mixups are funny, but other times they can be really confusing.
I have also had many cross-cultural conversations over the years where I thought we were all talking about the same thing but it turned out that we were all thinking different things. We were all using the same language but we were confused by what each other was saying. I've had this happen with Spanish words throughout Latin America and with English words here. Now, imagine my confusion, and amusement, when we were using Arabic words the other day with three guys from three different middle eastern countries and cultures to prepare the meal for last Sunday in the park. We didn't know this when we started planning, but when we were all talking about making Kabobs, we were all thinking of a different thing. I had no idea that the same word gets used in different countries to mean different things, so we had some good laughs when we were confused by the ingredients and processes that would be needed because we were all envisioning something different from one word: Kabob.
It got even better when we decided to expand the methods of preparation to include meat without a stick, which my non-Arabic ears heard in three different accents as kefta, kufta, and kofta. You can imagine my confusion when I was asking the right way to pronounce it and heard three similar yet different pronunciations...let's just say TomaYto/TomaHto. The good news was that, although pronounced slightly differently, we were all talking about the same thing!
Later that day, John and I were driving to the park and he was confirming directions and asked, "Left, right?" and I said "Right!" and then I was surprised when he started to turn left and I shouted "Right! Right!" Fortunately, no cars were coming and no kabobs were harmed in that sharp right turn!
It's really easy to get confused with communication! We sometimes have different words for the same thing or the same word for different things! We even have different ways some words are pronounced within the same language!
Last Sunday we were able to communicate and get on the same page, we had lots of fun, and everything was delicious, but it left me thinking a lot about challenges in how we communicate in our relationships with others and with God. When it comes to hearing from God and others, we can fall into a few traps that lead to confusing communication if we're not careful. Here are a few that came to mind as I was pondering the importance of good communication with God and with others.
How many times have parents zoned out when their kids are saying "Dad! Dad! Dad!" and they don't even hear them? Or, some, may even be ignoring them despite actually hearing them. Sometimes God is speaking to us through His Word, through His Spirit, or through His People and we don't hear it because we have so much other noise and distraction in our lives. Other times we can just blatantly block it out on purpose. We can do the same thing in our relationships by focusing on our own things and not responding to messages or questions that we don't want to deal with. This does not lead to healthy communication. It's important for all of us to be "quick to listen and slow to speak" (James 1:19). When we relate to God through His Word we must take the time to make His Word a priority and pay attention to what it SAYS...slow down, read it a few times, try different translations, listen to it, or even write out portions to make sure that we actually see what it SAYS.
In our relationships with others, we can sometimes only hear what we want to hear or what we think they are saying instead of actually listening and understanding what they're saying. Sometimes we take God's Word and we run it through the filters of our own desires and expectations and what comes out afterward is only part of what God said. When it comes to the Word of God it is helpful to keep asking the question: What does it SAY? And then what does it MEAN? We need to dig past what we expect it to say or what we want it to say. Only when we slow down to look and listen can we move on to actually interpret it.
Have you ever told someone to do something, confirmed that they understood and still nothing happened? They were basically saying: "I understand, but I just don't care." How does that make you feel? Unheard? Not valued? Disrespected? How often do we do that in our relationships? Someone tells us something, shares something important with us, and we don't do anything with it. How often do we do this with God's Word where we actually hear what it says, understand what it means, but don't take it seriously enough to apply it to our lives and do something with it?
James 1:22 says, "Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says."
I remember when Sarah and I had 8 kids in our home and things were really stressful and she said to me repeatedly "my head feels like it's going to explode!" I ignored that the first time and didn't think anything of it, then I filtered it and seriously thought she was speaking metaphorically when she brought it up again. It wasn't until after several times that it finally hit me that she actually meant that she literally felt like her head was going to explode and that it wasn't some figure of speech! When it finally hit me my heart was filled with compassion that led me to take action and I sent her to lay down to rest right away and then we started to figure out a plan for life that would help reduce the load that she was carrying. Can you imagine how much better our relationship would have been and how much more loved she would have felt if I had actually heard her the first time? Or, if upon hearing her the second time, I hadn't filtered it through what I thought she meant instead of asking her more questions to find out what she really meant?
I want to encourage you to be intentional to keep growing in healthy communication with God and with others by being an active, active listener who seeks to hear and not ignore, to understand and not filter things out, to adjust what you do because of what you now know and understand. Lots of people talk the talk, but to actually DO something with God's word and let it shape your passions and priorities shows that we care. When we take time to listen and understand those around us and allow what we learn to impact what we do this also shows that we care. Being CARE-FULL listeners will transform our relationship with God and our relationships with others! Being aware of the importance of this and seeking to grow in being CARE-full communicators by working to remove barriers that prevent others from hearing what we're trying to say will also be transformative. I want to invite you to press into both of these with me...and help me when I am doing or saying something confusing or careless by talking to me and helping me to also keep growing in caring communication as a part of this community.