Selective Understanding

Selective Understanding 

The proverbs of Solomon son of David, king of Israel: For learning about wisdom and instruction, for understanding words of insight, for gaining instruction in wise dealing, righteousness, justice, and equity; to teach shrewdness to the simple, knowledge and prudence to the young – let the wise also hear and gain in learning, and the discerning acquire skill. Proverbs 1:2-5

Recently, I heard a young mother describe a concern that her 3-year-old son could not hear. She had his hearing tested, only to find he could hear perfectly well. She discovered, much to her chagrin, that he was simply ignoring her. A friend of mine who, like me, has been married for many years, jokingly says that husbands selectively lose the ability to hear sounds in the frequency range of their wife’s voice. Likewise, I have heard husbands complain that when they try to tell something to their wives, the words go in one hear, pick up speed, and go out the other.

This Life Note, however, is not about selective hearing, but about selective understanding. It is very common for two people to hear or read the exact same words and come away with two very different understandings. For example, a couple of months ago, I published a Life Note and received a kind response from a reader, as follows: “I was reminded today is a beautiful gift, and I am the one who determines whether it is a good day or bad day. I’ve reset and plan to have a blessed day.” I thought, “How wonderful;” but nowhere in the words I had written did I say anything about our choice in determining whether a day is good or whether it is bad. Somewhere in the intersection of my words and her life experience, an unintended understanding was born that was a blessing to her. Praise God for knowing what this reader needed to hear that day!

Selective understanding is an amazing gift of grace, for it allows us to receive divine insights tailored specifically to our particular needs at any given moment in time. The receiving of such an understanding has less to do with the actual written or spoken words and more to do with our willingness to be receptive. I have long known that the words I write often mean different things to different people. It is a humbling experience to hear from a reader about what something I wrote meant to them, knowing their understanding came from a source well beyond my words. I find Scripture is ripe for multiple and selective understandings. When the words and stories that have meant so much to so many for so long are meditated upon by those seeking wisdom, magical insights occur. Hearts can be mended, relationships healed, and lives redeemed. We must first, however, be receptive to the blessing and be willing to hear in a way that does not always anchor us to traditional interpretations or understandings.

Come home to church this Sunday. Open your heart and mind for a blessing!

Finding Grace tag

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