A few years ago I attended a conference in Miami for my day job. While at the conference there were the usual main sessions and breakouts. During one of the main sessions the keynote speaker said something that really struck me as both a father and a children’s pastor. He talked about his job experience, his wife and his kids. It was while he talked about something that one of his daughters said , that he struck me with a mighty blow. She said, “Daddy, could you listen to me with your eyes and not just with your ears.” I nearly broke down in tears right then. How many times have I been doing something and have one of my kids walk up and want to talk to me? How often do I continue working while half listening to what they were saying? More times than I care to admit.
Honestly, I am capable of hearing what he is saying while continuing to work, but that’s not the point. I consider myself a family man; the type that puts my family ahead of my worldly pursuits. However, in that moment I am telling my son that whatever I am doing is more important than him. In my mind I may be thinking that what I am doing is more important than what he is saying. This may be true as he most often wants to talk about cartoons or video games, but that’s not the point. In that moment the message I am sending my son is that whatever I am doing is more important than HIM. I could cry now thinking of the times I have done this while working, or worse, while watching TV. I fear that my son may already think that I don’t have time to listen to him, or that these other things are more important than he is.
The problem isn’t so much that I don’t know everything that my son wants to tell me about Pokeman or Mindcraft. The problem is, if I don’t listen when he talks to me about these things then he may not talk to me about the important things that come later. If I can’t listen with my eyes, and not just my ears at this stage of life, then I may give up the chance to listen when he is facing things that can have a much greater impact on his life. When I attended this conference my son was only 8 years old. Now he is 13. How quickly the time passes. How quickly I have forgotten the lesson I learned at that conference. Still, there is time for me, and for him. Regardless of how old your children are be sure that you are listening with your eyes. If your children are young like mine then you are in luck, but even if your children are teenagers, or adults it is never too late to start practicing this.
This thought also applies to ministry. If we are not listening with our eyes when the children in our ministries are talking, then we will very quickly loose the privilege. Our own children may be willing to cut us some slack, but we may only have a couple of opportunities to get this right with the children in our ministry. Children have a way of looking past the facades we put up. They can tell who really cares about them and who is just pretending. If you don’t listen with your eyes, then you will quickly tell them that you don’t really care.
So, I would ask you – are you listening with your eyes? To your own children? To the children in your ministry? To your spouse?