Are you sitting comfortably? Then we’ll begin.
Having romped fast through #Adventbookclub Days 11 and 12, here I am on Day 13 and I am a bit bemused by what Nouwen is saying. I understand the bits of Latin – obedire=listening (obedient), audire=listening with great attention, surdus=not listening/being deaf (absurd?).
I don’t quite get his leap then into the Good Shepherd image – in my limited experience, sheep never listen at all. Sheepdogs, yes. Sheep, no. So I found myself distracted about his notion of moving from the mind to the heart – his claim that “Listening starts precisely when you move from the mind into the heart and let the truth of your being centre you down”.
Listening has always been a huge part of my calling (yes, I do shut up and listen now and again). One of the many strands of discernment was being part of a silent listening group, a group which prayed its way into silence, stayed still for 20 minutes or so, prayed out again, and shared what we heard. We assumed that if several people “saw” or “heard” or “thought” similar things, then those were probably of God, and should be considered deeply. This was one of the places where I found the beginnings of vocation.
So I do ‘get’ listening. But I am uncertain about Nouwen’s determination to locate true listening in the heart. I think we are more individual than that. God is well aware that my propensity is for thought and logic, and uses that. The Holy Spirit is likely to speak into my mind, in my experience. For other people this won’t be true, and that’s fine too. God speaks to each of us differently. The important thing is to listen as seems best, to listen carefully……and to respond.