Girlfriends in God - June 12, 2012

June 12, 2012
Do Wrinkles Make You Die?
Mary Southerland

Today’s Truth
James 1:19 (NIV) “My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry.”

Friend to Friend
It had been a very long and extremely hard day. My husband’s grandmother had died, and we had just returned from her funeral. Trying to establish a sense of normality for our two young children, I unpacked suitcases, started the laundry and spent some time playing with Jered and Danna. After a dinner during which Dan and I tried to lighten the atmosphere with silly bantering, we got the kids ready for bed.

Dan and Danna headed to her room for one last game of “Pretty, Pretty Princess” before bed. (You have not lived until you have seen Dan Southerland in a tiara and pink plastic earrings!) Jered and I settled in his bedroom to read books, play with his Hot Wheels and just talk. We prayed together and Jered climbed into bed. I gave him a kiss and a hug and tucked him into a blanket, a nightly ritual of creating a “Jered-ito.” As I turned on his nightlight and started out of the room, Jered’s question stopped me in my tracks. “Mama, do wrinkles make you die?” he asked. Ordinarily, I would have dismissed his question as a childish ploy to delay bedtime, but in a rare moment of wisdom as a mom, I sat on the edge of our son’s bed, took his hand and asked, “Son, what do you mean?”

Jered smiled and replied, “Well, Grandmother died and she had sooooooo many wrinkles.” Dan’s grandmother battled pernicious anemia for many years. The illness itself and the medications she had to take for that condition had left her skin damaged and very wrinkled. “Yes, honey, Grandmother was sick and had a lot of wrinkles. I still don’t understand your question.” After a moment of silence, Jered said, “Well, at dinner tonight you and daddy were joking about who had the most wrinkles, and I just need to know if wrinkles make you die.”

Wow! Over the years, I have thanked God so many times for the Holy Spirit who prompted me to stop and really listen to our son. We talked for a long time about the fact that wrinkles don’t make you die, but we also talked about the fact that Grandmother Lois was in Heaven and did not have any more wrinkles. And she was well and no longer in pain. It was one of the most meaningful conversations Jered and I have ever had about life and death and the fact that when we know Jesus as our Lord and Savior, we will go to heaven where Grandmother Lois will be waiting for us.

I have had to learn how to listen – really listen. For years, I used the time someone was speaking to formulate a clever response. Oh, I looked into their eyes but did not really see them. I heard their words, but did not really listen. I failed to hear what was behind the words – the hurt and pain or the confusion and questioning heart.

I now work hard to realize that every person God sends my way is really seeking His listening heart at work in and through me. I try to look for the pain hidden in each word. I pray for wisdom to respond in a way that will promote restoration and encourage healing. I have a long way to go, but I want to be “God with skin on” when it comes to learning how to listen.

Listeningby definition means “attention, with the intention to understand.” James says we should be “quick to listen and slow to speak” (James 1:19). Talking is sharing but listening is caring. Take a tip from creation. Ears aren’t made to shut, but the mouth is. Put away your sermon, save your advice and just listen. Sometimes the best gift we can give is a listening ear.

A little girl was eating breakfast with her Daddy. They were on a “date” spending some special time together. He was telling her how wonderful she was and how proud he was of her. After he had done what he thought was a sufficient job, he picked up his fork and began to eat. His daughter put her hand on his arm and stopped him with these words, “Longer, Daddy, longer.” He didn’t eat much food that day, but a little girl’s hungry heart was fed because her father was willing to listen.

Are there any hungry hearts in your life who long for nothing more than your listening heart? I am convinced Jesus was an amazing listener. Children loved him and longed to spend time with Him. Hurting people were drawn to Him. He was sought out by people from every walk of life. He always made time to listen. We need to do the same.

Let’s Pray
Father, I am sorry for the times when I have failed to really listen to the people in my life who need my love and undivided attention. Help me to be a better listener. Teach me to encourage others by the way I listen to and love them.
In Jesus’ name,

Now It’s Your Turn
How would you rate yourself in the listening department? Do any of the following characteristics apply to you? If so, what steps do you need to take to become a better listener.

_____ Too busy
_____ Preoccupied
_____ Failure to focus
_____ A judgmental attitude
_____ Don’t care enough

More from the Girlfriends
Check out Mary’s E-Bible Study I Need a Friend for ways to deal with fear and walk in peace. And if you need help with trusting God, get Mary’s MP3 download, Stepping Out in Faith. Check out all of Mary’s E-Bible Studies, MP3 downloads, CDs, books and videos in her online store. And don’t miss the FREE resourcesavailable on Mary’s website.  

Need help learning how to live a life of power and purpose? Check out Mary’s weekly online Bible Study, How to Dress for Successand learn how to live a life of victory. Connect with Mary on Facebook or through email.

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Originally published Tuesday, 12 June 2012.