From cell phones to incessant demands from work, many guys feel justified in developing the ancient art of zoning out. As men redeemed by the precious blood of Christ, the grace we have received should impact every area of our lives— including our ears. It is likely the understatement of the century to say that our wives often have helpful, wise, and biblically insightful things to say. In other words, don’t be a fool: “The way of a fool is right in his own eyes, but a wise man listens to advice” (Prov. 12:15).
One of the ways that we can honor, love, and encourage our wives is to zone in and hear them. This takes effort on our part. Good listening skills must be developed. Not only does the world clamor for our attention, but our own indwelling sin wants to be heard and affirmed rather than expend energy in listening to someone else and bearing his or her load. Although most of our grandmothers were not medical doctors, they were right when they told us that “God gave you two ears and one mouth for a reason.”
Active listening means that we are to exercise intentionality while communicating with another human being. God, the creator of ears, mouths, tongues, and words, has much to say about human communication. James wisely counsels us at this point by writing, “Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger” (James 1: 19).
Did you catch that? We are to be quick to hear and slow to speak. For many of us, this is the opposite of how we naturally respond when someone is talking to us, telling us a problem, or pointing out one of our (many) flaws. In other words, we need God’s powerful grace to obey God’s perfect commands. We need to be injected with serious theological muscle builder before we start the hard work of training our ears to be attentive to our wives’ words and counsel.
James knew this. Like a wise coach, he made sure we were grounded on grace in the preceding verse: “Of his own will he brought us forth by the word of truth, that we should be a kind of firstfruits of his creatures” (James 1: 18). First, we are told that our salvation came from hearing the life-giving Word of God (see Rom. 10: 17). Second, we are told that we were born again, saved, regenerated, adopted, justified, reconciled, and so on, by the grace of God Almighty, by his sovereign will. This is humbling news. This is astounding news. This is good news.
How does the good news of salvation by God’s amazing grace affect our ears? Dear brother, our ears are not the main issue; our hearts are the main issue. If listening to your wife is a source of contention in your marriage, ask yourself the following questions in order to get to the root of your hearing problems:
- Am I refusing to listen because I am bitter? If so, am I willing to repent and seek reconciliation instead of avoiding her?
- Am I allowing myself to become mentally distracted by games, work, hobbies, and the like? If so, what does this say about what I truly treasure?
- Am I forgetting that God listens to me when I pray, even if my prayers are immature or poorly spoken? How should this inform my interactions with my wife when she needs to process life with me?
- Am I intentionally avoiding her so that I don’t have to take the time to listen? If so, what does this say about the degree to which I understand the gospel of God’s pursuing grace in my own life?
- Am I failing to listen because I simply do not care about what she has to say?
Being an active listener takes time, energy, and intentionality. Your wife needs to know that you value her enough to hear her. If you have a hearing problem like the one described in this section, you likely have a heart problem too. Thankfully, there is a physician whose grace cures both ills.
Excerpted from Man Up, Kneel Down: Shepherding Your Wife Toward Greater Joy in Jesus by J. Aaron White. Now available for pre-order.