by Alyssa Robinson
Learning to slow down and listen is one of the most difficult lessons of growth for me. Listening typically isn’t one of our core values. We live in a culture that values action, decisiveness, speed, opinions, competition, and innovation. In many ways, my personality naturally fits into these cultural values. I always thought that was a good thing because it made functioning in corporate America much easier, but as I’ve grown older I’ve begun to realize these traits can act as an inhibitor to personal growth and happiness.
How can I learn to slow down and listen?
It goes against all of my natural tendencies. More than that, it feels like idleness or laziness. Prior to working at the church, I was at a marketing agency that valued all of my inherent traits. I felt powerful, respected, and important. I was proud to tell anyone what I did for a living. My work made me feel noteworthy and celebrated.
As I was climbing the corporate ladder and building my career, I wasn’t nurturing any other facet of my life. I neglected my mental and physical health, ignored spirituality, and shut out meaningful connection. Looking back, I see that every relationship I had, romantic or platonic, was either transactional or about getting to the “next level.”
I had created a self-centered world where I never had to work on myself because I was applauded for my traits, which had slowly turned toxic. How could I possibly learn to slow down and listen when I was blocking my own growth at every turn?
Then, very suddenly, I got a gut feeling that I needed to quit my job. It was like I woke up one morning and just knew this life I had built was unsustainable. Within one week of that realization, I put in my notice. I can’t imagine doing something like that today. Maybe it was because I was in my twenties, and a little more daring, but I never once felt fear or uncertainty in my decision. I just knew it was the right next step for me.
I believe that “gut feeling” was the Holy Spirit. As I examine the past decade of my life, that decision was a huge turning point for me. I went from a prestigious position in a growing company to a part-time employee of a local church. Slowly, I began to work on myself and reconnect with God. I found myself in a work environment that valued listening, compassion, mercy, and slowing down to contemplate the Divine. Prayer, spiritual growth, and reading scripture are literally part of my job description.
This time of transition was both painful and empowering.
It was painful because during this time of self-discovery and spiritual restoration, I lost a lot - or at least I thought I did. In the beginning of this transition, I was embarrassed to tell people I worked at a church. I had defined myself by my career, and I felt like a failure for being in a less ambitious work environment. I lost relationships that I thought were built on more substance than they actually were. I lost my marriage.
The truth is, none of this was a loss, although it was painful. My only loss was the shedding of the mask I wore to cope with the world. For the first time, I was vulnerable. I was willing to be seen for who I really was, and that meant I was opening myself up for rejection. And I was rejected by some. However, the number of people who embraced me for this new version of myself, the true version of myself, was encouraging and beautiful.
I can now say I love God and I love myself more than ever. My relationship with God and self looks completely different, and it’s wonderful.
It boggles my mind to think that listening to this one little nudge from the Holy Spirit changed the trajectory of my life in this way. It opened my soul to contentment, simplicity, harmony, and rest. I’m taking the time to recalibrate my values and lean into God’s purpose. It’s difficult, but rejuvenating work.
I wish I could say that I’ve learned to listen more intently to what God is trying to reveal to me, but I’m still not great at it. I struggle all the time to shut out the noise of the world and understand what God wants from me. But imagine if I could find a way to wholly tune into the Divine and feel all of the ways the Holy Spirit is nudging me! What would my life look like?
One of my goals this year is to set aside time to listen to God. This might look like prayer, quiet time, meditative activities, or just going for walks without my Airpods. I haven’t quite figured out the “how” yet, but I know I want to slow down and listen for God. How do you listen for God?