Short Thoughts by Geoff
The daughter of a retired couple was helping them move from their former four bedroom house to a two bedroom bungalow as it would be much easier to manage. For some time the daughter had been concerned that her mother was losing her hearing but her mother insisted that there was absolutely nothing wrong with her hearing and she could hear perfectly. As it was a fine day father and daughter were in the garden having a cup of tea and discussing what to do about the garden pond that the previous owners had constructed. Would it be easier to look after it or fill it in? As they were talking her mother came out of the house with a plate of scones and said, “You two look deep in conversation, what are you talking about?”
“The garden pond”, said her daughter, “what do you think about the pros and cons?”
“Frozen prawns in the garden pond?” said he mother, “Oh no dear, I don’t think so!”
A misunderstanding like that can make us laugh and we can all be prone to such idiosyncrasies particularly as we are getting on in years or when we are very small. A three year old girl was to go on a picnic with her Dad to give her Mam a bit of space. She was told to choose what to eat and drink. After compiling a short list she said, “And juice for me and a can of beer for Daddy.” “I’m sorry,” said he father, I can’t drink beer if I’m driving the car.” “That’s alright, Daddy,” she said, “I’ll hold it for you!”
Yes, hearing and understanding are not the same and there are quite a number of mentions in the Bible where folks are exhorted to really listen and understand what they are hearing. Perhaps the most well-known passage is the Parable of the Sower. Here is Luke’s version: When a great crowd gathered and people from town after town came to Jesus, he said in a parable: ‘A sower went out to sow his seed; and as he sowed, some fell on the path and was trampled on, and the birds of the air ate it up. Some fell on the rock; and as it grew up, it withered for lack of moisture. Some fell among thorns, and the thorns grew with it and choked it. Some fell into good soil, and when it grew, it produced a hundredfold.’ As he said this, he called out, ‘Let anyone with ears to hear listen!’
When ideas are hard to grasp a story is often a good means to aid understanding. I’m sure that is why Jesus often taught through parables to unfold the secrets of the kingdom of God so that the hearers could think over the story and begin to see what he was driving at. Sometimes the truth of a situation needs telling in such a way that the unpalatable becomes accepted as when Nathan the prophet was sent by God to confront king David over his adultery and murder. *
When he came to him, he said, ‘There were two men in a certain town, one rich and the other poor. The rich man had a very large number of sheep and cattle, but the poor man had nothing except one little ewe lamb that he had bought. He raised it, and it grew up with him and his children. It shared his food, drank from his cup and even slept in his arms. It was like a daughter to him. ‘Now a traveller came to the rich man, but the rich man refrained from taking one of his own sheep or cattle to prepare a meal for the traveller who had come to him. Instead, he took the ewe lamb that belonged to the poor man and prepared it for the one who had come to him.’ David burned with anger against the man and said to Nathan, ‘As surely as the Lord lives, the man who did this must die! He must pay for that lamb four times over, because he did such a thing and had no pity.’ Then Nathan said to David, ‘You are the man!.
Nathan used a parable and David convicted himself when he saw the meaning. Had Nathan simply accused the king he could have been executed, but because David listened to a story and expressed anger at the injustice perpetrated he pronounced a verdict that the man was guilty of a capital offence. But it was only when Nathan said ‘You are the man! that David really heard and understood.
Yes, hearing and understanding are not the same. May God therefore grant unto us the gift of hearing that truly understands.
* see 2 Samuel 11