Monday, May 22, 2017

Things we hear

Such a spring.

It began, it seems, with the tumult of our roof being replaced.  Now they are resurfacing the roads in our neighborhood.

Noise.  Deep, pulsing, grinding noises go on and on, shaking the tiny, trembling bones in the depths of my ears until the nausea rises to gag me in my throat.

Did I tell you about how seasick I got in the Florida Keys this past February, when we went on a glass-bottomed boat tour of a coral reef?  Did I tell you about how I threw up seven times, filling not one, but two airsick bags in a helicopter over the Grand Canyon?

Those were elective experiences.  In a way, the roofing job was also elective, but it didn't seem so.  The roadwork is certainly not elective, and I wish to goodness there were somewhere I could escape.  Alas, I don't think I could even drive out of my driveway, had I anywhere to go.

Life is so funny that way.  I don't mean the kind of funny that makes you laugh.  I mean the kind of funny that makes you stop and look sideways at something.

Life is made up of all these different experiences.  Happy times: new babies, weddings, simple days when you pack a ripe peach and eat it under a tree somewhere while the sun shines and the squirrels scamper hither and yon.  Actually, weddings are not always happy.  They can be stressful, depending on whose they are, and how much responsibility you have for them, and whether you know anybody, and who you are seated with, and how it all goes, whether it is a nice day or a stormy day, and whether most of the other people are happy.

Sometimes it is the simple days that are the best.  Not Christmas, but the day after Christmas, when the house is a little bit untidy, and nobody new is coming over, and you can start to dig into your gifts, reading the book, wearing the sweater, munching on the nuts.  There are times when you share food and laughter at a table with people you love dearly, and times when a small child falls trustingly asleep in your arms.  I love to hold a sleeping baby.

There are times when you feel sad, when you have lost something or someone very important to you.  It can be permanent loss, as by death, or temporary loss, or a loss that you keep hoping might only be temporary, but only time will tell.

You may be sick, miserable, in pain.  It could be flu, migraine or recovery after a surgery.  Sometimes there is a haze of pain medication that doesn't seem to work until you notice that it has worn off.  These points in life seem to drag interminably, like the noise outside my home, the overwhelming, vibrating, crunching, beeping noises of heavy equipment, on and on and on.  Perhaps this is what puts me in mind of the subject.  There is a siren now; I wonder if an accident has precipitated.

In the crunch of a discomfort, it is hard to focus on the positive.  We must have patience for one another in this.  We must remember our own discomfort when we are tempted to judge someone else in his.

Did I ever tell you about the times God spoke to me?

He often "speaks" to me in the sense that He puts His words in my mind and I recognize them as true and as having come from outside of me.  "Often" may be a bit of a stretch, but this does happen now and then.  It is always a thrill, and a feeling of warmth and electricity comes over me as I rub my arms to wipe down the goosebumps as I realize what has happened.

However, twice He spoke to me audibly.  It was over twenty-two years ago.

The first time it happened, I was in the living room in our little cape cod house in North Syracuse.  I was sitting on the sofa, which ran along the south wall of the room, in front of a tall, narrow window dressed in natural linen curtains trimmed with a ball fringe.  It was the sofa we still use, except this was before we had it reupholstered; it was scratchy and rather lumpy, olive tweed.  I don't remember what I was doing, or what time of year it was, or really anything, except that the sun was streaming in the window, and I was warm.  I was alone.  The children were asleep.  It was very quiet, uncharacteristically quiet, because the children were asleep.  I sat there on the sofa, with the wall and the bright window behind me, and I'm sure I was thinking, but I have no memory of what I was thinking, because right in the middle of a thought, I heard a voice behind me, clear and present and absolutely as audible as a voice could possibly be, which was particularly strange, because there was no space behind me, only the wall and the window, which was not open.

In moments like these, the order of events gets all mixed up, and I can't say in what sequence I perceived the particular details.  It is difficult to write about it.  I jumped in fear, startled and frightened to hear a voice, when I knew that I was all alone.  As I was jumping, and the fear coursed through me, I perceived things about the voice.  It was a man's voice, which was terrifying--not only an unexpected person, but a man, a large man, was present in the room with me.  Yet, the deep, kind, perfect richness of the voice simultaneously calmed me with a peace that washed over me, dissipating my fear as it caressed my hearing.  Even before I made sense of the words, I knew it was Him.

"Trust me," He said.

There I was, startled and soothed by one earth-shaking phrase, my attention completely riveted.  I knew who He was.  "It's You!  It's okay.  I'm safe," flashed through my consciousness.  My immediate second thought was, "Say it again!  Please speak to me again!" but even as I begged, the palpability of His presence faded, although the echo of His voice lingered, and I strained to grasp as much of it as I could, holding completely still, barely breathing.  "Again," I begged, my mind reaching, listening so hard, but knowing that it would not be.

The second time it happened, I was in our white Ford Taurus, driving near the intersection of Bear and Buckley Roads, still in North Syracuse.  This time it was dark.  I do not remember whether I had children in the car with me or not.  It is likely that I did.  They must have been asleep.  I don't know why I was out driving.

He spoke to me from the backseat of the car.  Again it startled me.  A young mother does not expect to hear a strange adult male voice from the backseat of her car.  However, this time I was not afraid, and I recognized the voice more quickly, having heard it before.  I immediately tried to slow down my brain and listen as hard as I could, remembering how quickly the beauty of the voice had dissipated before.

"Trust me," He said.

"Couldn't you please keep talking?" I prayed.  "Your voice is so beautiful.  I want to hear more.  I love you."  I drove home in silent euphoria.

Those are the two times I heard the Lord's voice speak to me audibly.  "Trust me," is what He said.  As far as I can remember, it did not come in direct response to anything I was happening to think about at the time.  In both instances, it seemed to be more of an interruption in whatever I'd been thinking about, a totally unexpected breakthrough from eternity.

I don't often speak of this (I didn't even tell Shawn about it until after years had passed).  For one thing, I don't want people to think I'm crazy.  For another thing, I believe that God primarily reveals Himself to us through His word, the Bible, through the story of Christ, and through the creation that surrounds us.  I don't put much emphasis on seeking signs and wonders.  Sure He can do them, but we must never demand that He prove Himself through them.  If He chooses to do so, it is only by grace, an undeserved and unexpected gift.

Still, it happened.  This is as true a story as I can hope to tell you, and for whatever reason, I've recently been feeling the impression that I need to record it for posterity.

"Don't let your hearts be troubled.  Trust in God, and trust also in me."
~Jesus (John 14:1, NLT)

"My sheep listen to my voice; I know them and they follow me."
~Jesus (John 10:27, NLT)

The Lord is my strength and my shield;
my heart trusts in Him and I am helped.
My heart leaps for joy
and I will give thanks to Him in song.
~Psalm 28:7 (NIV)

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