Listen to Understand
We do it without even thinking, and we respond without hesitation. We communicate at a constant rate with one another every day in person, on the phone, snail-mail, voicemail, text, email, television, Facebook, emoji icons and we could go on and on. Those don’t even include non-verbal communication that we share through attitude, actions, facial expressions, presence and response.
And yet it feels like we always could use more communication. You know what I mean? When you read the recipe instructions, but you don’t know how they got from step one to step two. Someone sends you a text with an emoji icon, and you are unsure if that means they are happy, sad, angry or worried. When your spouse asks you why you didn’t take care of the project, but you are sure they never said anything about it. Maybe it has happened when listening to one of the political candidates share their views, and you just want them to answer one more question. It almost feels like we are on the verge of really understanding all the time.
I wonder if this is how disciples felt after the resurrection. Jesus appeared to many people and told them about the Holy Spirit, the great communicator, but the information seemed oddly confusing.
I get it. The Holy Spirit has always been the person of the Trinity that people struggle to understand, which is why the Holy Spirit ends up being explained through analogies or metaphors—which aren’t the best types of communication.
The Holy Spirit is described as wind, fire, energy, water, a dove, a mother and the list could go on. The Bible, theologians and some of us try to explain the gift of the Holy Spirit who speaks God’s messages to us and communicates on our behalf to God.
The challenge is that the Holy Spirit really can’t be explained. A person of the Trinity, who is God, has no body and speaks in every way of communication from dreams and visions, to ordinary people and voices from the heavens, the quiet peace of the morning and the raging battles before us. The Holy Spirit’s communication is constant, and sometimes it feels like we are on the verge of really understanding what God is saying to us today.
I think that is why on Pentecost, the gift of the Holy Spirit had to show up in so many ways—the communication was clear. God had the power to communicate with people who didn’t know the same language. God’s strength to make change is as powerful as a rushing wind. God’s imagination is as intricate, special and unique in helping us all understand as putting flames of fire on top of everyone’s head and no one has 3rd-degree burns. God made himself clear; He was here to stay.
Good communicators will say that the most effective way of communication is through active listening by both parties. Listening with our minds, bodies, actions and attitudes for what God is saying to you today. How is the Spirit guiding you in your decisions, future, and day-to-day life? The Holy Spirit communicates to us all the time, and I like that, if we aren’t listening in one way of communication, she tries another until finally we are listening.
As we approach Pentecost this Sunday, listen. The wind is blowing, people are around and the Holy Spirit is speaking to you!