It was late afternoon and I was giving some PRN medications to one of my patients. I was anxious to get everything finished before shift change and was in more of a rush than usual. As I logged into the computer and scanned the meds, my patient talked pleasantly about his life and about how he disliked rainy days. Or something like that. Because right about then my attention snapped back to him when I heard him say, “You’re not really listening to me, are you? It’s OK, I know you’re busy.” My heart froze. After going through extensive surgery which left him disabled, my patient had every right to be grumpy and irritable. But instead, I turned to see his smiling face gazing out the window. He’d always been such a ray of sunshine during my shift that I felt absolutely horrible for ignoring him, even though it was purely unintentional. “No sir, I wasn’t. I’m so sorry.” I put down my scanner and gave him my full attention. The world could wait; my patient needed me. “Could you repeat that?” Come to find out, it wasn’t about the weather at all. He just wanted to give me some life advice.
Long ago I’d vowed to always show my patients that I was listening to them, but some days I forget. Codes happen, admits happen, transfers happen, rounding happens, meds happen, charting happens. Life happens. Recently I’ve realized that I struggle with listening more than I thought.
Listening is an art that I’m still learning at a very slow rate. And no, I’m not talking about simply listening to my patient, or my girlfriend, or my friends. I can just search “listening” in Pinterest and find a plethora of inspirational words to boost my listening ardor. I’m talking about listening to things I don’t want to hear. My past. My struggles. My failures, mistakes, heartaches. The things that teach me, informing me how I need to change and grow and learn. All too often I ignore them. All too often I turn away from them and tell myself that the past is the past. I’m much too busy to listen anyway.
The past IS the past which is what makes it so valuable. It is a gift that we so often not only take for granted, but also stuff under our bed in the spare room of our guest house on the property we left years ago. There’s a little verse in Isaiah 30 which speaks powerfully in regards to our past. In verse 15 God is speaking to the Children of Israel and says, “In repentance and rest is your salvation, in quietness and trust is your strength, but you would have none of it.” No, instead of repenting they would come up with all sorts of victory schemes. But the Lord warned that they would simply end up like an empty flagpole on a hill. Instead, in verse 21, the Lord said they should listen to the voice behind them whenever they began to fall back into temptation. Not in front, not to the side, but behind.
God uses friends to speak to us. He uses nature. He uses His Holy Word and Spirit of Prophecy. But all too often we ignore the means of communication known as Our Past. That little voice from behind, “You tried that last time and failed. You messed up. This, this is the way to walk in! See how I the Lord have led you with forgiveness and restoration?”
I know my past, but I don’t know yours. Don’t ignore it, don’t repeat it, don’t ever quiet it. Put aside your distractions, your job, your boyfriend/girlfriend, your school, your plans for the future, give them all to God until you have fully listened to that little voice behind you. Because there’s power in listening. Verse 22 goes on to promise that we will conquer the past! We are not defined, controlled, or harassed by it any longer. Whenever I’m tempted to stray down a familiar path of temptation, that little Voice is right there to warn me away. Come to find out, it’s not about the weather at all. He just wants to give me some life advice.