“Hello Lord”

January 6, 2011

“Hello, Lord”
(Written while faced with a difficult decision)

“Hello Lord, it’s me your child. I have a few things on my mind. Right now I’m faced with big decisions, and I’m wondering if you have a minute.

“Right now I don’t hear so well and I was wondering if you could speak up. I know that you tore the veil so I could sit with you in person and hear what you’re saying, but right now, I just can’t hear you.”

These words were composed by a Christian songwriter whose name is Sara Groves. It’s one of my favorite songs, not just because it’s such a peaceful and beautiful song, but because she seems to capture so well the struggle that we sometimes face in prayer and discernment. We Christians often turn to prayer at moments of personal distress or when we are “faced with big decisions” looking for some kind of guidance from the Lord.

I was recently talking to a friend whose 42-year-old daughter, a mother of four, had just suddenly died of an aneurism. My friend has always been a person of strong faith but she was telling me that right now she was “standing on the edge” between believing in God or not believing in God. She said, “I am so mad at God right now and I don’t know what to do. I’m still praying but I’m not getting any answers.”

“Right now I don’t hear so well and I was wondering if you could speak up. I know that you tore the veil so I could sit with you in person and hear what you’re saying, but right now, I just can’t hear you.”

I talked with her for quite a while and tried to offer some words of consolation. I didn’t think it was the right time to try and give her any answers. She needed to vent. I needed to listen. With an assurance of my prayers and a promise to see her as soon as I could, I hung up the phone.

I started thinking about what my friend had said and my mind kept drifting back to the song, “right now I just can’t hear you” and how I had known those moments of separation from God in my life too. I just can’t hear you. Why? Over the years, it took me a while to begin to figure it out. The disconnect was not so much about God as it was about me. It was not so much that God was not speaking to me but that in my brokenness and humanity, I couldn’t hear Him and that was because God was speaking in a different way than just through prayer. As time went on, I came to realize that I often overlooked what God was saying because I was listening with only one ear, the ear of prayer, and not with both ears within the community of faith and friends. He was talking all around me through my friends and family and Church. God speaks to us in and through the faith and teaching of the Church. God speaks to us through the words of encouragement, consolation, and advice spoken to us by our family and friends when we need to hear it. I just was listening in the wrong place.

This makes a lot more sense than some kind of direct communication by God in prayer – something like, “Okay, my child, here is your answer” which, really, borders on the miraculous. By speaking to us through the teaching of the Church and the people of the Church, God communicates through the natural order of things. This doesn’t mean that we cannot be lead by the Spirit in prayer to place of clarity or consolation but that our prayer is only one part of the way in which we come to know God and His will, resting on the foundation of our normal day to day interactions with others.

I don’t pretend to have a perfect or complete answer for why my friend’s lovely daughter died. I can only sit with her in her pain and listen. I can only try and alleviate the sorrow she is feeling by letting her know that she is not alone. I can only speak words of hope and encouragement that point to an eternal life beyond this world. But, in a sense, is that not God speaking to us through his Son Jesus Christ: “You are not alone. I, too, have suffered. I, too, have known death and I offer the hope of eternal life to those who persevere in the faith in me.”

Right now I don’t hear so well and I was wondering if you could speak up. “I am speaking, all around you. Just listen with both ears.”

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