Do you remember the days before COVID, when people could freely gather to attend concerts and parties and weddings? When we could jump on a plane or sing in church or dine out or have a haircut?
It seems so very long ago.
On one of those long-ago days I was next door to a large meeting room where 80 or 90 people were waiting to hear a lecture from a visiting professor. One might have been excused for thinking that this room was full of excited young music fans eager to see their favourite band. Or they might have been guests at a big family celebration.
But these were refined folk of senior years, buzzing like a swarm of very large, heavy bumblebees. An occasional word would emerge from the hubbub – ‘rhubarb, rhubarb’ as Spike Milligan would have said.
The steady hum ebbed and flowed and ceased only at the loud ding of the speaker’s bell. A quick shuffling was heard as people took their seats to listen in courteous silence to the speaker at the lectern.
A perpetual Tower of Babel
Do you suppose that’s how the world sounds to God? A world of voices clamouring, one voice barely distingushable from another. We know that God hears each one but it can’t be easy.
I could not make out individuals in the next room. We presume that God can, that his ears are better tuned and always open.
There are times when the clamour of prayers must be deafening. Not just during pandemics, or wars, or disasters or when we are distressed about the state of our planet or the plight of refugees. We shout inwardly or aloud to God demanding healing and a fixing of the situation.
There’s lots of ‘Hey God it’s me. Over here. Help!’
Countless prayers and curses, all vying for attention and divine help. Prayers that are long and heartfelt, short and desperate, beautifully crafted, harshly vernacular: God can hear the lot.
You wonder if he ever feels like sticking his fingers in his perfect ears and yelling: ‘QUIET!’ Like an exasperated parent, he might say ‘Why don’t you use the ears I gave you?’
But how often do we listen, if at all?
We can be so busy telling God what we want and what he should do that we fail to open our ears, be silent and just wait for him to reply. Sometimes our prayers must seem like an online shopping list.
God answers in many ways, not just in words, and not always as we expect.
And how often do we give God praise?
How often do we thank him for answered prayer? That’s assuming we have been able to hear the answer above the sound of our own voices.
In our crowded lives, even during the pandemic – maybe especially during the pandemic – we can forget the value of silence, the healing calm of connecting with nature, going for a walk alone among the trees or along the water’s edge.
Being alone, silent, away from noisy distractions – that’s the opportunity to listen, to attend to God’s response, and simply to enjoy his presence. Walking with God in the garden was a thing in the bible! (Genesis 3.8)
God’s ears are always open and in tune. We badly need to open and re-tune ours.
Sheelagh Wegman is a freelance writer and editor. She is in the community of St David’s Cathedral in Hobart and lives in the foothills of kunanyi/Mt Wellington.
Sheelagh Wegman’s previous articles may be viewed at http://www.pressserviceinternational.org/sheelagh-wegman.html