by Meg Hines
Psalm 19:14: Let the words of my mouth, and the meditation of my heart, be acceptable in thy sight, O Lord, my strength, and my redeemer.
I have been trying to listen for God.
Really, I have.
But amidst the clamor, busyness, stress and to-do lists, it has been difficult. I keep telling God that I am listening, that I am trying, but I just can’t hear anything. I sort of liken it to the Grinch in his famous role, you know, the one where he says, “All that noise, oh the noise, all that noise, noise, noise!”
Listening is not as easy as it’s cracked up to be. You know when we were little and we were in school and the teacher would say “listen”. All you had to do is stop and pay attention. It’s not so easy to do when you get to be an adult. It is work, hard work, difficult work to stop and just listen. There is too much crowding in your mind, body and spirit.
My Lenten work has been to keep trying to listen and in that, I have been making sure that I am doing something each day that is meditative and that maybe, just maybe, I will hear God. It took a while, but the Grinch shell started to crack just a little one Sunday a couple weeks ago. I was giving a lesson in Sunday School about God’s Wise Ways and working with my class to come up with images and metaphors to describe the beauty and joy of knowing and following God’s wise ways. Here are a few they came up with …
God’s love is as powerful as … a tsunami
God’s peace is as deep as … my mother’s love
God’s rules are as fair as … Barack Obama’s
God’s ways are as beautiful as … a beach at sunset
Pause. Stop. Wait a minute … I think I just heard God. Right?
A Sunday or two later, I was able to doorkeep for Danny during Godly Play and hear some of the first parts of the Faces of Easter story. During the quiet, but busy work time with the kids, I overheard Atticus in the corner working with the Exodus story. As he moved a figure up onto a small platform, I heard him say, “I am God and I am always with you.” There you are God … I hear you again!
During our family trip last week, staying at a hotel close by the White House, we were eating breakfast at our handy dandy little Hampton Inn when I heard the sounds of chanting outside and it dawned on me — it was the voices of students who were protesting outside the White House about gun violence. The voices of children, speaking again! There you are God!
At a conference last weekend, I struck up a conversation with an Uber driver whereby we compared notes on education. He told me all about his daughter who was a teacher and how she worked in a school that was very challenging and how she had just received the “Teacher of the Year” recognition. I talked to him about how I was a “teacher of teachers” and how I was there at a conference talking about my own work with how we must develop the talent of children in all places and spaces. He then opened up to tell me about his own experience as a bright, African-American male growing up in school and how he always knew he was smart but just didn’t get the challenge that he longed for. He talked about how he had to leave high school to work for his family and how after he had put his children through school, he went back to school to become a social worker. The conversation lengthened more after that, but I got out of the vehicle feeling a bit like God was a passenger in there with us. The chance that his life experience met my own work and that we ended up in the car together for that meaningful conversation was impactful to me in continuing to affirm the work I do in my professional life. Thanks God! I needed to hear you on that.
What I’ve learned this Lenten season is that God is always speaking to me. I’ve learned that God speaks to us in many different ways. It might be through the voices of children, through meaningful protests about life’s inequitable circumstances or through strangers I’ve never even met. I’ve learned that my work is to make the time and space to pay attention. I’ve learned that listening takes practice and that it is important to keep my listening skills in shape. I’ve drawn closer to God in these moments and for that I am truly grateful.
Loving, patient God,
Thank you for continuing to work on me. Thank you for loving me in my selfish, busy moments. Thank you for not giving up on me and for continuing to find ways to speak to me through so many individuals, each day. Thank you for leading me toward times of meditation this Lenten season so that I remember how important it is to be with you and listen for you each day.