The art of listening

The art of listening

Written on 01/07/2021
Robbie Down

Resting in the Spirit of God

Written by Robbie Down

I never thought of myself as someone who placed value in my achievements. Until every activity in my life was brought to a screeching halt.

A year ago, I began a worship apprenticeship at my home church. The year was lining up to be full of spiritual growth and pioneering new musical projects.

I was going to be job-shadowing our current worship pastor as they mentored me in growing upwards in leadership and inwards into the roots of my identity in Christ. I was also going to write and record a worship album to release for our congregation.

I was basically getting paid to write music and learn to love Jesus more. What could be better?

However, a quarter of the way through my internship, the glorious plans I had for spiritual growth, writing, and recording took a turn for the worse. After one workday, our staff was called into an emergency meeting. Confused and fretting a little, I rushed into the meeting room, unsure what to expect.

Everyone took their seat and after some short explanation, our lead pastor announced that our worship pastor was resigning for personal reasons unknown to us. You know those out-of-body, dizzy feelings where the events around you don’t feel like reality, more like a dream where you can be nothing more than a bystander? That was exactly how I felt.

I had lost control and been placed in this dream I couldn’t wake from. Upon hearing this news everyone’s thoughts turned to fear and frustration. How could something this awful just pop up out of the blue? What were we going to do now?

The following week was slow. It moved slower than I ever would have liked a week to move. There were many tears and long conversations behind closed doors in the church office. There weren’t any blooming vision casting, bubbling event planning, or boisterous lunchroom laughter like there had been.

Almost everybody was feeling somewhat numb. We were unsure where to turn next or how long to sit in our grief. How could we be confident the Lord was providing for us in this time of ministry? We were confident, however, that we could not summon any sort of genie and ask him to turn it all back to the way it was.

This was our new reality, and it felt quite unsteady.

During the coming months, we worked out a way to cope with the new hole in our leadership. We stretched to fill the weekend worship with those who were available.

This time most definitely wasn’t filled with any great amounts of rest or organization. It often took more out of me than I felt I was receiving in an apprenticeship role.

My now more appropriately called interim position moved on like this for the following months until the Coronavirus spread across the world. In a week, our church went from hugging and laying hands on each other, to watching all worship and sermons on our TV screens in our living rooms.

It was like someone poked one domino in our seemingly invincible lives and it all came to a falling down in a matter of days.

I remember feeling dizzied by my own sudden lack of movement, while at the same time being immensely disconnected from almost everyone around me.

I couldn’t sit down and talk with anyone, I couldn’t hug and pray with anyone, and most of all, I couldn’t sing with anyone. This was an experience shared by all.

I lay on my bed, staring at the ceiling, wondering, “What is God’s plan in this?” and “What do I need in this time of distress?”

If it what I needed was rest, why did it feel so forced and unnatural? I was so used to having a full agenda every day of the week. When all regular face-to-face interactions were stolen from me, my sense of direction went with them.

It felt like one of those brilliantly shining spotlights that steers a large vessel through dark waters had been reduced to an iPhone flashlight. I needed a source of comfort, desperately.

When things get rough, I pick up my guitar and starting singing about what I’m feeling. I sing about the wrong going on around me (or in me). I sing David’s psalms of lament and confusion, and I sing about the hope I have in Jesus Christ until I remember again this is a hope I can hold onto.

It’s in these moments where I can craft my emotions and wrestling into something creative. This creativity gives me comfort in the ever-shifting, spinning, and balancing game of life.

Why does this creativity give me comfort?

I am resting in the Spirit of the Creator, letting the image of God placed within me flow out again and give glory back to the one who deserves it all. In doing this, my heart comes back to rest in the truth of my being fully known and loved.

Like the quiet streams and green pastures of one of our beloved psalms, this creativity is a balm to my soul.

I also believe harnessed boredom spurs creativity. It’s healthy to be in a moment of boredom and nothingness so you can look around and make sure your vessel is still taking part in the outflow of the Spirit.

I find comfort in being firm in the knowledge that the same Spirit who raised Christ from the dead is creatively flowing through me, reviving my sleeping heart.

I find security knowing the ultimate Creator declares His pure image over my fragile frame and empowers me to take part in the outpouring of His glory.

Being in lockdown, quieting myself, and listening to the Spirit, led to the song “Shelter.” I was in a place of longing. Longing to be comfortable with sitting still so I could listen and hear God speaking again.

To be an artist and love the Lord with all your heart, soul, and strength, is to be a profound listener.

We wait and meet God where we are, so He can show us how He intends to paint His beautiful Kingdom with our awkward and shaky hands.

You can listen to “Shelter” on Spotify or YouTube.