It was worse than the teacher described.
“Observe my lesson and you’ll see that Rick doesn’t pay attention—at all!” The seventh-grade history teacher invited me to see for myself what he witnessed on a regular basis. As administrator, I provided instructional support to teachers. Often classroom visitations provided insight.
On the day I observed, the teacher was reviewing for an upcoming test. Mr. Jones wrote on the smart board. The students copied. He wrote. They copied. Suddenly, he broke the pattern.
“This next fact will be on the test. Listen up!” He stated an important date in history, but didn’t write anything on the board. Not one student wrote the critical fact!
When the lesson ended and students had left, Mr. Jones was eager to hear my reactions.
“Well, did you see what I was talking about?”
“Yes. Rick wasn’t paying attention. But, you’ve got a worse problem…I’m not sure how carefully all the other students are listening.”
I didn’t drop that bomb without offering support. Soon after, I taught a mini-lesson on how to take notes. The twenty minutes I invested resulted in better note-taking skills and improved grades.
Teachers need students to listen. Likewise parents need their children to listen. Adults require kids to listen—to pay attention and to obey.
However, a child with mental illness (MI) may not have any desire to pay attention. Our son once said, “I’m apathetic. I just don’t care anymore.”
His desire to listen declined. Mine increased. I hear a sound in the middle of the night and strain to detect if there’s a problem. Chris often sleeps during the day and goes out at night. He prefers working out at his gym when there are less people around. Although he’s an adult, I still find it difficult to sleep soundly when I know he’s out.
Moms have perfected the skill of sleeping with one ear open. Merriam-Webster’s online dictionary defines that skill as being ‘alert to catch an expected sound.’ We listen to hear the door open and close, signaling our child has arrived home.
Many moms raising kids with MI have also trained their ears to listen to the tone in the child’s voice. Subtleties in their child’s communication help a mother gauge emotional well-being. I’ve learned to be attuned to Chris’s pace of his speaking. Faster speaking lets me know his mind is racing a bit. Sometimes I can detect a slight strain in his voice which signal elevated tension. Careful listening is key.
Emotions can block careful listening in children with MI. My emotions affect me similarly. I’ve discovered they block my careful listening to God. I approach God with all my problems and sorrows. Never giving Him a chance to speak to me. I bow my head and my words are off and running. I reach the finish line and say, “Amen.” If I communicated that way with friends, I’d find myself friendless in no time!
I’m sure God has things to say to me. In my personal walk with Him, I read His messages in the Bible. And hear His direction for my life through other believers (sermons, Christian radio speakers, saved friends and family members).
I want more. I want to learn how to settle my heart before God when I pray. So I can hear what He wants to tell me. I’m finding it so hard to clear the thoughts which clutter my mind. If I can teach seventh graders how to listen better, certainly God can teach me how to hear His voice. Not receiving audible words, just connecting with His thoughts. I’m sure if I seek His help, He’ll gladly teach me how to listen to Him.
And I know He’ll do the same for you.
“Therefore consider carefully how you listen (Luke 8:18)”.
You can be sure He listens to you:
“Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you (Jeremiah 29:12).”