If there is a single word I find myself saying to my children more than any other, it’s got to be the “L-word.” You know the one: “Listen.” I wish it were love, but if I’m honest, Listen tends to flow off of my tongue just a bit more frequently.
I dream of a world where toys get picked up the first time I ask, and shoes get put on without delay or distraction. A world where sibling fighting ceases upon command. Where school work get done without complaining and piano gets practiced without an argument. A world like when I was a child and children listened to their parents and obeyed without a quarrel. *cough cough
Of course such a world will never exist, but that does not mean I will stop by desire for my children to listen.
Although, I was convicted by scripture last week when I read words from Matthew that Jesus had for me, and repeatedly I heard his own call for me to listen. Listen, Jesus started. He continued to give examples of ways we hear God’s word, but fail to actually listen to it. In the end he commanded again, “Let those with ear, listen.” (Matthew 9)
And I realized, that as much as I wish my children would listen, so too God longs for us to hear God’s words of life and listen to them as well. And boy are grown-ups just as capable of ignoring commands and doing whatever we want.
The issue, of course, is that each time we do not listen, we are not hurting God. We are only hurting ourselves.
I do not want my children to listen because I’m tired of repeating myself or to avoid my own frustration. I want them to listen to us because we know they need sleep and will be happier and healthier with a balanced diet instead of just cereal and chips. Because we know that their entire lives will be blessed by their sibling bonds and friendship even if they cannot see that yet—so stop fighting! Because we know that learning piano and reading books will do much more for their development than binge watching marathons Teen Titans Go on Cartoon Network.
Their listening isn’t for us, it’s for them.
The gospel—the word of the kingdom—is the same. God doesn’t demand our obedience merely for his sake. He’s a loving parent and he knows what is best for us even when we cannot see it ourselves. And so he bids us to dwell in his word and listen to it.