One night, in response to prayer, the Lord blessed me with a greater understanding than I had ever known. I had never been a listener in our family. It just wasn’t part of my nature. My new perspective was granted in February of 1982. I was a new graduate student at Brigham Young University pursuing a master's degree in counseling. My wife and I had been married for seven years, and we lived in a tiny trailer with our three children. I felt burdened by schoolwork and school loans. I also felt a rising resentment toward my lovely wife because I thought she was failing in her homemaking responsibilities. I voiced my disappointment freely, but though I didn't know it, my faultfinding was driving a big wedge between us.
At about this same time, I began my observation and counseling lab, which required me to make fourteen audio counseling tapes to submit for review. Since the first tape would be due the next week and I didn't know anyone in the program, I asked Peggy to be my counselee. I thought it would be easy to demonstrate a few listening skills on tape with someone I already knew.
We arranged a special time for me to test my listening skills on her after the kids had gone to bed. I was tense because this would be the first actual counseling tape I would submit for evaluation. Peggy had come home late that night from a church meeting and we were both tired. At first she wanted to delay the session, but the tape was due the next morning so we prayed and asked Heavenly Father to bless and inspire our efforts, then proceeded. Over the years I’ve come to see just how well that prayer was answered.
Peggy started hesitatingly to talk about our oldest son. She described some of the discipline problems she was having with him, and as she continued, I grew more and more frustrated. I couldn't understand why she kept talking about these problems when the whole situation seemed so simple to me. We’d gone over this same subject so many times before in arguments, and the temptation to “set her straight” was powerful. It was like a force welling up from someplace deep inside pushing me to correct or direct her. I prayed fervently for divine help to keep still, and as I persisted, I felt a quieting influence enable me to hear what she was saying and understand her feelings. I could see deeper feelings behind her words, and I was able to convey to her a sensitive understanding of those feelings. I humbly sought clarification of points that seemed unclear to me and summarized her thoughts to check my understanding. The experience was new and strange, but clearly, I was hearing her as I never had before.
There were times when she came close to tears, yet didn’t cry. From time to time, her voice would break with emotion, her face would flush with feeling, her eyes would moisten with tears, and I knew she was sharing something of deep importance.
After more than forty-five minutes she seemed to be finished. I think I understood her feelings and I think she thought I understood them, so we just sat there until I said, “Let’s go to bed.”
I’m usually the one who prays the longest, but this time I finished my prayer before Peggy. It was a long time before she looked up, and her eyes were red and wet. We turned off the lights but just sat up a while saying nothing. Then she leaned over and said, “Steve, you’ve never listened to me like that before.”
Then the Lord took that comment to my heart like an arrow, and I knew I could never be so ignorant, uncaring, and selfish again. To this day, my wife regards that event as a new beginning in our relationship, as I began to listen to her on a regular basis. I know the Lord’s Spirit was with us on that night and has been with us many times since to help us through each crisis and to enrich our lives together.
Stephen M. Bird, Prayers That Bring Miracles, (Murray, UT: Aspen Books, 1997), 131-133.