February 16, 2011 | The Rev. Dr. Scott Stoner
"Listening to Whispers"Whenever our lives get out of balance we will always get what I call a “whisper” that something needs to change. It’s a small voice inside our head that tells us that something isn’t right, that something needs to change. The whisper could be any of the following: “I feel a sense of emptiness, like something is missing in my life.” “My clothes are getting tight, they just fit the way they used to fit.” “I feel like there is a distance growing between us, we’re just not as close as we used to be.” “I think the amount of stress in my life is really starting to take a toll on me.” “I seem to be drinking more than before, I wonder what that’s about.” That inner voice, that whisper that something needs to change is easy to ignore. After all, it’s only a whisper. When a whisper is ignored though, it seldom goes away. The usual progression is that the whisper gets louder, and now our inner voice is starting to shout at us. If the shout does not get our attention, then something will usually happen, some negative consequence, that is so obvious that now we can no longer ignore what is happening. This is what we have just witnessed in Egypt. After thirty years of a leader ignoring the whispers, shouts and negative consequences of his actions, the voice for change in Egypt erupted into a revolution and a president was overthrown. President Mubarak’s rule did not have to end that way though. He had countless choices along the way to listen to the warning signs that a change needed to happen. He chose to ignore all those warning signs and in so doing eventually sealed his own fate. When it comes to our personal and relational wellness, it is essential that we learn to listen to the whispers that tell us when something in our life is out of balance. Healthy individuals, couples, families, leaders and organizations do this on a regular and proactive basis. They take an honest look in the mirror on a regular basis. And because they know that even then they can still fool themselves, they regularly seek out honest feedback from others that they trust. They build in honest feedback loops into their lives so that they can adapt and grow to the constant change that is the norm in everyone’s lives. But it all starts with being willing to listen to the whisper that something needs to change. In the Bible, in the book of 1 Kings, chapter 19, there is a beautiful story about Elijah going to Mount Horeb in order to hear what God has to say to him. Elijah first hears a loud wind, and then breaking rocks, and then an earthquake, but he reports that he does not meet God in any of those things. The next thing Elijah encounters is the “sound of sheer silence.” It is in that sheer silence that God whispers to Elijah. So what whispers are you hearing right now in your own life? Are you able to be quiet long enough to hear them? And when you hear them, will you have the courage to make a proactive change, even if that change is uncomfortable at first? The benefits of listening and responding are enormous--growth, healing, joy, abundance, peace. The costs of not listening and responding are also enormous, as we see in the recent events in the Middle East.
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