The Nobility of Crickets

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Aloneness. A bench. Sunrise. Winter. Beauty. So many metaphors for a heart that longs to hear from Him.

I was sitting with a friend over some amazing enchiladas and creamy jalapeño dip, and doing what we do when we get together – eating Mexican food and catching each other up on our lives and hearts. And inevitably we began talking about our pain. Because, if you are having an honest conversation with someone you love and trust, how can this not come up? Whatever we walk through becomes part of who we are – and if we show up authentically in relationship with another, our pain tags along. Every time.  And it was one of those moments when, as soon as I spoke the words meant for her, I realized that they for me also.

We were talking about the experience of God disappearing on us. Of feeling like He is nowhere near. Of feeling abandoned by Him.

First off, let us not dismiss the holiness of this conversation by feeling like we need to defend God or a particular theology. He is a big boy who isn’t threatened by our honest exploration of His identity and His ways – or our experience of His identity and His ways. Not to fear, accurate theology has a way of surfacing among open and seeking hearts. However, when we are uncomfortable with what we don’t understand, many of us have tendencies to offer pat, dismissive answers. (God is good, all the time…The Bible says so…It’s not about what you feel…If you just had more faith…You should…read more, pray more, work more, etc.) In other words, we sometimes attempt to ease our own surfacing anxiety with people who ask challenging questions, or questions we haven’t wrestled with just yet by shutting them down. The time to break open the Bible and discuss the theology that underlies our experiences will eventually come around – but only if we are open to this part of the process. When someone shares their heart (especially if it is messy), the first response should be compassion. Grace. Maybe a few questions to get the full meaning of what they are saying. The people of God, who are His hands, feet, ears to listen to, and shoulders to cry on here, should be safe places for people to bring their broken hearts… in all their messy glory because…

God cares deeply when our hearts are broken. And He wants us to bring our broken hearts fully to Him. If we hide the places that actually hurt (usually because of shame or fear of rejection – see paragraph above)… the experience can be sort of like having a very painful sore throat, yet when the doctor asks you what the problem is, you tell her it is your knee instead. The complication is that, a sore throat will often, eventually resolve itself. A broken heart…well, those don’t heal nearly as neatly or predictably. Why would we go to a doctor, and yet not seek help for the part of us that is actually wounded? 

We do this with God all the time.

In this evening of being together with my friend, how we were, where we were… letting it be ok to not be ok, to not have all the answers, to have questions and emotions that didn’t fit neatly in a box or that made us sound more put-together than we were… she said,

“When I pray, all I hear is crickets.”

Silence. Aloneness. Doubts about His love. Worries about being in His will or pleasing to Him. Wondering ‘what am I doing wrong’…or ‘what is wrong with me’? What follower of Jesus hasn’t had this heartbreaking, disorienting, at times terrifying experience? And somewhere in the conversation, after relating and empathizing, I said, in words I realize now were not entirely my own,

“What if some of the noblest work of God is found in the crickets?”

I’ve been sitting with this question for a while now.

What if learning to wait on Him, and trust Him in uncertainty is THE work He has called us to? Not a peripheral lesson of the faith, but a central one?

What if learning to be still and silent before Him is the royal road to deep satisfaction in Him? 

What if some seasons of silence actually contain amazing amounts of God-communication to us, but our skills with silence are so underdeveloped, that we have no idea how to understand or process it properly?

What if our incomplete knowledge of Him severely limits our experience of Him? 

What if the most loving thing He can do is to break our destructive theological paradigms by defying them? And what if silence is one way to do that? 

What if the crickets we may hear in certain seasons of our relationship with Him are not a sign of His distance from or displeasure in us, but instead a sign of His nearness, of His desire for us to have More, and of His transforming power at work in the deepest, most tender places in our heart? 

Psalm 27:14 Wait for the LORD; be strong and take heart and wait for the LORD.

Eccl. 3:7 A time to tear apart and a time to sew together; A time to be silent and a time to speak.

 

The Value of Sitting, Being Present, Being Still and Listening (Jesus pt. 88)

It was early one morning and I was sitting with my Jesus, trying to be present, trying to be still, trying to listen. The moment wasn’t about communication with words. It was about being where He was. About making a physical statement that I wasn’t trying to move away.  About opening my heart rather than trying to fix it on my own. About getting quiet enough to see what would happen and how He would lead our time together.

Mug from our honeymoon. Bible. Journal. Jesus.

And parts of the experience were so frustrating.

I would start to form words to talk with Him when I sensed I just needed to sit, to be present, to be still, to listen. My mind would begin to wander to things I tried to convince myself were important… that were important… and I’d sense the need to sit, to be present, to be still and to listen. To park them in the proverbial parking lot so He and I could get to them later while we did this other, more pressing work in our relationship. Eventually, my thoughts slowed down and the mental distractions diminished.

Then my heart began to weigh in. Emotions unexpectedly emerged. As Jesus asked me to sit there in my office that morning, it was representative of how it has felt as He’s asked me to sit here during this prolonged season of life. Where the most exciting thing He’s asked of me some days is to sit, to be present, to be still, to listen. I found myself feeling so unvalued. So unloved. And by extension, so unvalue-able and so unloved-able.  I had recently watched many near me get really great, fun and exciting assignments…opportunities that have taken them to really great, fun and exciting places to serve Him, to love His people and those who are on their way to becoming His people. I couldn’t help but feel that my assignment during the same time must indicate something of how He feels about me. That my greatest contribution must be getting out of other people’s and His way.

By sitting with my Jesus, by being present, by being still and listening, I was putting myself in a position for important but hidden things in my heart to emerge. To hear Him speak to me about those things. And oh, how I needed to hear Him speak to me! One thing I’ve learned about walking with Jesus over the years…while He may not always change my external circumstances…when He speaks, He always changes my internal condition. He always changes something in me. He always changes me.

Sitting, being present, being still and listening are doors to relationship with Him. Microphones that allow me to hear His voice when normal life might drown Him out. Hammers that bust up the box I try to put Him in. Tender embraces where He holds me close and with great affection.

Life ebbs and flows in seasons. Some appearing busier than others to the untrained eye. Some falling into different categories by the world’s method of categorizing things – like usefulness, value, love. God’s cycle of seasons can look very different than our preferences, His categories defying our natural predilections. What appears to some as dormant on the outside can be bustling with activity on the inside. Healing from the past. Preparation for the future. Special gifts in the present that would go unnoticed if life were busier. What I think may be a statement of low worth and lack of love can actually be a powerful indicator of great worth and deep love. God is surprising and mysterious that way.

What I thought that morning was the pinnacle of passivity became a most powerful and active demonstration of His love in my life.  And it was open to me because I was willing to learn to sit, to be present, to be still and to listen.