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Inspiration for Today’s Devotional: “Fluttershy Leans In”

Following a gradual history of becoming more self-confident and seeing a need to be filled from the local veterinarian, Fluttershy finally decided to move forward with a dream of hers to build an animal sanctuary. Although this idea had existed solely as a dream for years, she had many concrete ideas for it; including an emphasis on being an open, nurturing, and safe space as opposed to something with bars, walls, and/or fenced in. Yet although she conveyed her ideas very clearly to the experts that she relied on for help, as the ideas were unusual they didn’t pay attention to her or try to match her concept; instead electing to take ideas that they thought were better and only put in a few tweaks that barely addressed Fluttershy’s desires. Although they were contrary to what she wanted, they simply assumed she’d like their way better on seeing it, and actually got offended when she didn’t. As a result, she ended up putting her hoof down and dismissing all of them, then started again from the ground up.

One of the traits of being a good Christian (or individual in general) that I think is one of those more “life-long-learning-processes” as opposed to a skill you can just pick up is also one of the most basic and important: learning to listen. It’s a trait that not only comes from personal habits and choices but often has to be tempered by watching your own emotions and demeanor in certain situations or with certain topics.

This particular episode hit a note with me in that regard. I’m an amateur writer, and one of my recent projects was editing another amateur writer’s work for him and putting in some revisions. Often in discussions he tells me exactly what he wants and is going for with a character or event…but me, being a writer myself with my own ideas of what I like and don’t like, I’m ashamed to admit that often I try to substitute my own ideas in and often without consulting him first or respecting his original intention. This episode served as a nice wake-up call to what I was doing; not listening and imposing my own preconceived thoughts and, more importantly, wants and desires onto what he was saying. There’s really no greater act of disrespect to an artist in any medium.

And, as anyone can tell you who has ever had to deal with someone like that, such a thing is abysmal. It is an incredible frustration to work with someone who you realize is just not listening to you. Whether it’s because they just heard the highlights of what you said or they simply sit still while you talk, essentially waiting for your lips to stop moving, and then ignore everything you said–nothing gives you quite the same sense of frustration, insult, and anger as people not listening to you. And the Bible has a healthy share of examples.

When Moses tried to lead the Israelites to the Promised Land, both he, Joshua, and Caleb told them how the Lord would be with them to help them triumph over all their foes, no matter how strong or numerous, but they wouldn’t listen and rebelled against the command to take the Promised Land. Yet after God informed them that their punishment would be that they would have to remain 40 years in the desert, specifically saying he wouldn’t be with them if they went up to try and take the Promised Land before then, what did they do? They tried to go up anyway, saying they were ready to obey the original command now. Naturally, Moses was now doubly frustrated, because they weren’t listening again, and they had just as disastrous a result as before  (Numbers 13-14).

I can only imagine the frustration of the elders who served under King Solomon when dealing with his son: the newly-crowned King Rehoboam. Although they gave him sound advice for how to quiet the discontent of his new subjects, he wouldn’t listen to it because it wasn’t what he wanted to hear and went with advisers who would tell him what he wanted. As a result? Israel’s kingdom split in two and never regained its former glory (1 Kings 12:1-20).

Then there was Paul and Barnabas in Lystra. They performed a miracle before the eyes of the people there in order to bring glory to God and promote the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Instead, however, the people didn’t listen and immediately thought their own pagan gods Zeus and Hermes had come in mortal form. The two were so frustrated by this reaction they tore their own clothes in protest (Acts 14: 8-18).

One of the greatest blunders I ever committed as a Christian was when I tried ministering to people online. I spent one evening talking to someone and tried to follow up the next day, but, as I said in my previous devotional, I was focused only on trying to say the right thing rather than trying to care about that person as an individual. I ended up not remembering what they had told me about themselves the day before, they immediately realized I hadn’t been listening, and…well, as you can imagine it was all downhill from there. As I said before, I should be caring about people first before I can expect to share the Gospel with them, and part of that is actually listening to people rather than looking for opportunities to spew Bible verses.

In closing, I’d like to end with one of my favorite anonymous poems, and I encourage you to take it to heart in your own devotional life or life in general:

“A wise old owl lived in an oak.

The more he saw, the less he spoke;

The less he spoke, the more he heard.

Why can’t we all be like that wise old bird?”

Suggested Prayer: “Lord God, thank you for all the people in my life who I have ever turned to when I have been in physical, mental, or life difficulties who have always patiently listened to me; accepting me, understanding my situation, and not offering any unsolicited advice.  Please help me to do the same to everyone I meet, and especially to those who come to me with their problems and entrust themselves to me. To coin an old proverb, as I have been blessed with one mouth and two ears, please grant that I listen twice as much as I speak. Gratefully in Jesus’ Name, Amen.”

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