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.

 

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“Make It Small.”

There is this scene in the movie Man Of Steel that deeply moves me.  It is where a young Clark Kent is in school and his powers of x-ray vision and super hearing are coming in.  He sees through people to their skeletons and hearts.  He not only hears what he is supposed to hear, but the things people whisper, that they meant to keep hidden.  And the sheer volume of it all is overwhelming to him.

I’m finding that there are people out there who have something of these abilities too.   It is like they have a spiritual/emotional type of x-ray vision and super hearing.  They see and hear pain in others.  They are aware that there are deeper layers underneath almost everything we say and do, and they are tuned into this spiritual/emotional wavelength.  It plays under the actual words of most conversations.  It reveals itself in body language.  It can hide in subtle facial expressions that are gone almost as quickly as they appear.  It is cloaked in what isn’t said, in pauses, in deep breaths and in misty eyes that glance away.  And they notice what others often miss.  These are the people who pay attention to others in a way that isn’t always common.

I think Jesus was speaking about these “tuned-in” people when He said in Matthew 13:16, ” But blessed are your eyes because they see, and your ears because they hear.”  Because people whose ears are acutely tuned into and aware of the pain of others, are often acutely tuned in to the voice of God as well.  They understand that He is ever-present, always working, constantly speaking and deeply invested in our goings-on.  They know how to look for Him and His handiwork in both their and in other’s lives.  They know how to listen for His voice and leading, both in their and in other’s lives.  They recognize that pain is often a door He walks through on His way into someone’s heart.

And in response, they are willing to step up and enter in and help.

I am also finding that this ability and heart posture, while a blessing, can be weight to carry as well.

It is a wonderful thing, to know your life has more meaning than just self-gratification, consumption and the pursuit of fun.  It is a gift to be a helper – and to know people and situations are better after your participation than before.

And it can be absolutely exhausting at the same time.  How is it possible to see just how dark the world can be… to know that most every person you encounter is managing some level of pain… to hear words in conversation that point to brokenness… to want to change, if not the world, then at least your corner of it…and not be overwhelmed by it all?

In his pain with seeing and hearing too much, Clark’s mom came to his side and taught him a most valuable skill.  When he, through tears said, “The world is too big, mom,’ she replied, “Then make it small.”  She helped him learn to focus.

The way our world works, sometimes it is too big.   With technology,  we are connected to too many people and their stories.  We have too much access to news, to statistics, to pictures.  The level of pain we are able to witness and touch – we were never meant to carry all this.   Not that we should run away and hide from the world we live in.  I am convinced that followers of Jesus should be more aware than most of what is going on in the world, let our hearts be broken by it and moved into action to bring the redemption of Jesus’ kingdom into people’s lives.

But we must learn to how to focus…on what we can carry…on what we should carry…on what is closest to us and where we should invest our emotional and spiritual capital.    Because if we don’t, we can get overwhelmed and crushed by the weight of a burden we were not designed for and never meant to hold.  Therefore, I am attempting to learn the spiritual practices of making my world a little smaller.  Not because I don’t want to engage the world – but because I so desperately WANT TO engage the world.  I’ve got to find a way to do it…and be able to survive at the same time. 

These include:

Limits on my use of technology …so that I don’t give away to others, the emotional energy that belongs to those in my immediate circle of affection and influence…so that I don’t allow the volume of information coming in to overwhelm me to the point of numbing.  Too much online time acts like spiritual Novocaine for me.  While not isolating myself, making sure that those with the most intimate access to me and my heart are healthy – so that my personal time is restful and not draining.  The embrace of regular silence and solitude.  Sometimes for long periods of time.   Allowing my heart to rest and recover…allowing me to assess where damage has been done…allowing Jesus to have full access to my heart so He can grow and strengthen it to hold some of the darkness I encounter.  Learning that some days, it is totally ok to turn my eyes and ears off and just focus on what is in front of me – like play time with my kids, a good meal or enjoying a walk in the gentle spring sunshine.  Learning that I don’t have to be super-serious and intense all the time.  Play is ok.  Small talk is ok.  Realizing that, while Jesus has called me to be aware, involved and compassionate, He has also called me to be human.

Learning to make things small, while not running away from big…I’m pretty sure these are skills of those who are able to live sustainable and beautiful lives, with healthy rhythms of both engagement and rest.   Lives not just of vision, but of focus.  Lives that are able to change their corner of the world…sometimes much more than that…and thrive in such away that they can then teach others to do the same.

Matthew 13:15 -16  For this people’s heart has become calloused; they hardly hear with their ears, and they have closed their eyes. Otherwise they might see with their eyes, hear with their ears, understand with their hearts and turn, and I would heal them. But blessed are your eyes because they see, and your ears because they hear.