Listening vs Learning


Deuteronomy 30:19-20

I was reading out of responsibility when I came across the first scripture I am going to share.  I don’t say that with any negative connotation, rather it was the reality. When you add your name to the signup sheet for a Bible study, one can expect a tad bit of homework.

I didn’t mind the duty that dangled before me, I actually welcomed it. You see, spending time scrutinizing the scriptures brought me serenity. After the loss of Samantha nothing the world had to offer eased the constant ache of every day. Early on, to arm myself against bouts of sadness and depression, I added weekly Bible study to my routine. The daily reading required to complete each chapter helped me stay connected to the treasures tucked away in God’s Word. The questions that I was asked to answer at the end of each section served to teach me about myself. As I struggled through a season of trauma, the work helped me in many ways

So, there I sat with my left palm propping open my Holy handbook and with a pencil perched between my thumb and index finger. I was readied to read and take notes on the

bible-studysubject material. Certainly, as with most studies there was a particular point or “moral of the story” mindset I was to focus on. So as I read, my mind worked to grasp the geographical context of each story, the hidden meaning in each passage and how the outcomes of the stories shaped the history of Christianity. All the while, I jotted down notes on the pages of my spiral notebook so I would be prepared for my next class.

Yes, I was task-orientated as I read God’s word, intent on learning what the workbook aimed to teach me through studying the scripture.

However, when my eyes arrived at Deuteronomy 30:19-20, without warning, smack in the middle of my studies, the dynamics did a detour. All of the sudden, I wasn’t reading God’s words. Instead, He had decided to read to me! The idea of a lesson gave way to real life.

I imagine if God had chosen to make Himself audible to me, I would have heard, “Quit taking notes because we need to have a talk!”, “Stop seeking because I have something to say!” Or, maybe He would have closed the Big Book altogether, lifted my chin with a gentle touch so I could meet His stare as He said, “Look at me and listen!”

Oh, I was moved spiritually and leaned into the written word and flexed my ears making them receptacles for words possessing listeningthe power to change my mindset and to steer my feet on a solid path to recovery.

No longer was I learning, instead I was listening:


“This day I call the heavens and the earth as witnesses against you that I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Now choose life, so that you and your children may live and that you may love the Lord your God, listen to his voice, and hold fast to him. For the Lord is your life, and he will give you many years in the land he swore to give to your fathers, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.”

Deuteronomy 30:19-20 (NIV)

The words carried such a punch, I had to ponder them. Then, I went back and insert myself into the message to grasp the full potential of the passage. Being 10 or so months into my recovery, my brain was just beginning to comprehend again. (trauma has the tendency to scramble one’s ability to read) and my spirit was settled enough to receive. (meaning I wasn’t so crazed that God’s word couldn’t sink in). However, it was necessary for me to slow down the pace to reap the full reward. This resulted in an fantasized dialogue that went something like this:

God to Elizabeth: “This day I call the heavens and the earth as witnesses against you …”  

(I imagined a thunderous voice)

Elizabeth to God: “Wait, you are calling the heavens and earth AGAINST me? You have all of creation standing at attention! Why? This must be serious … Ok, you have my attention, too!”

(I imagined responding shakily.)

God to Elizabeth: “… I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses.”  

(I imagined He said this authoritatively and very matter of factly … there was no wiggle room and He only mentioned two options)

Elizabeth to God: “OK, I get it! There are two ways of doing things. One will result in more pain than I have already experienced, curses. The other promises goodness as I take the time to recover, blessings.

(So often, Samantha’s accident and the aftermath is the “reference point” in my life.)

One can appreciate the two way conversation that my study time turned into. Initially, the scripture was stated to me. After that, God lovingly stuck around so we could discuss and I could flush out what He wanted me to hear.

The pivotal point was made in the next phrase, “Now, choose ….”

Elizabeth to God:  “Wait, I have a choice? What do you want me to choose?”

God to Elizabeth: ” … choose LIFE” (emphasis mine, but I imagine He would have made Himself very clear)

Oh, I was aware of His adamant urging. With authority, He was pointing me in a particular direction. (I think he would have even banged his almighty hand on the table that might have sat between us!)

Then, with compassion and understanding He laid out the reasons to my “WHY?” (knowing in my human frailty I needed to understand the benefits before entering into the bargain)

So with words He painted a picture of peace for me.

God to Elizabeth:so that you and your children may live …”  

(Oh, I did not like being sad and tormented with loss each day. It was like death repeating itself every 24 hours! And, by no means did I want that kind of life for Brooke, nor for my nieces, Claire and Hannah or any other child suffering after the loss of Sam) In addition, God made me aware that my behavior would impact others. (Yikes!)

God to Elizabeth: “… and that you may love the Lord your God, listen to his voice, and hold fast to him.”  (He continued to shower me with more reasons to live His way!  )

The next few words ensured me that God would be the reason that I carried on, that He would be the One to give me my life back. … “for the Lord is your Life.”

My reading was ended with an invitation to enter a special place  …and  he will give you many years in the land he swore to give to your fathers, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.” That is, … the land of milk and honey. Oh, I knew a little bit about this particular piece of land from my studies. But, after my time with the Lord came to an end I did a little more research. 

Yes, I went quickly went back to learning. I searched for details and descriptions and became aware of explanations for what the land of milk and honey was like. A land of promise, a place like heaven or paradise, the mountaintop, a place that appeals greatly to someone were phrases that brought this sacred place to life.

After what I had been through and staring into a life without Samantha, this offer was one I couldn’t refuse. I knew it was where I wanted to arrive and I knew I wanted to bring Brooke and David  and others that I loved with me. And, to think I could help lead even more there!

No longer were the words that I read simply a story about God speaking to the Israelite’s. Instead, it was God revealing to me how to live a life so that I was alive!

Oh my, I was moved and without hesitation, I made my decision. I linked arms with Jesus and decided to do things His way.i-choose-life

No, it isn’t always easy. Yes, sometimes, I have to dig deep and fight the demons to find my way . And, as always, some days are easier than others.

However, always fashioning my choices after the truth found in Deuteronomy 30:19-20 has made all the difference.

And, listening, not learning has given me life!


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6 thoughts on “Listening vs Learning

  1. God’s timing is always perfect. My 24 year old son died tragically 2 months ago, and tomorrow a good friend will lay her 13 year old son to rest. 2nd Corinthians tells us we suffer so we can minister to those who are suffering. We have to reach forward and take the hand of someone a little farther down the road, in order to gain strength. Then we must reach back and grab the hand of a newly devastated mother and help her to move forward. Losing a child breaks you to the core like nothing else can. I’m praying for daily strength to minister to those who are suffering. Thank you for reaching back and grabbing my hand.


    1. Cheryl,

      I am so sorry about your son. As well as, the tragedy and suffering you friend is experiencing. I agree, losing a child can break one to the core like nothing else will. For me too, 2nd Corinthians has been an anchor of hope and verse of inspiration through my own journey. In addition, watching it play out in my own life has proved the truth of scripture. May God’s grace and mercy continue to be with us all. Please know that whenever my experience can breathe life into another, indeed I am the one blessed. Blessings and peace to both of you.


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