Have you ever felt that you are not being heard? You know. You are speaking, and you are not being heard. "I heard you! I heard you!" Someone may say. But you know that you haven't been heard.
Jesus often referred to people "hearing, but not hearing;" and "seeing, but not seeing." It seems like a paradox. How can one hear, but not hear? And how can one see, but not see? Well, I have a few examples from my own life.
When my husband and I celebrated our thirteenth anniversary, he took me to a posh restaurant, which had romantic lighting. The enormous picture windows allowed us to hold hands and watch the sun go down. All at once, my love, pulls a tiny package out of a colorful bag. Then he pulls out a small, handmade velvet pillow, and he kneels upon it, with one knee. I was astounded as he opened the box and showed me the beautiful engagement ring inside.
"Jaye," he said. "I couldn't give you a ring thirteen years ago; so I offer you this one, now. Will you marry me?"
My eyes filled with tears, which spilled down my face, as the server behind me cried, "Oh, my God!" The restaurant patrons broke out in applause, as I replied in a tremulous voice, "Yes!!!"
No one knew that we were an "old married couple." All they saw was a man and a woman deeply in love. Sadly, at the next table, a tragic break-up had been taking place. A young woman pleaded with an angry man.
"Please, see the sun is going down! Look! Look! It's so romantic."
The irritated man quickly glanced out the window and spat out words I'll never forget, "I SAW IT! I SAW IT!" Then he leaped up and left the restaurant, as his partner sobbed. He hadn't seen it, nor had he heard her.
Hearing words, without understanding, is not hearing. Seeing, yet unmoved, is not seeing. I have learned that seeing and hearing is not about the eyes or the ears. Seeing and hearing is about the heart. So, it may seem as though my pondering over these things is irreverent today, but for me, it is everything.
I had an acquaintance once, whom I thought was a close friend. However -- and this was years ago -- when she and I were watching a horrible sight on the news, our paths went different ways.
I was appalled by the story, and the video of an Ethiopian mother and child. Both were emaciated, and the baby had a swollen belly. I couldn't stand it. All I could see was my baby, dying before my eyes. It was so personal, and I was helpless to save them.
All of a sudden, my "friend" spat out a barrage of filth and obscenities. I could see her face filled with hatred and rage. Then she screamed, a racial slur, and cold shock streaked through me. I couldn't believe it. Before our eyes, the baby's eyes went blank. We had watched her die, and my life was forever changed. My "friend?" Well, let's just say, we were no longer friends. She was able to look, without seeing; and her heart was so hard, that even this did not move her. I went home, and I cried so long, that it seemed like forever.
So, what does this have to do with my life today? Well, that day taught me to look, with an open heart; and I've learned to hear, with open ears. Where I cannot reach out and change the circumstance, I allow the circumstance to change me.
One day, not so many Christmases ago, we had decided that we would not exchange presents, because we do not have small children. Instead, we try to look for ways to help others have a happy Christmas. We've been very blessed by our decision. However, that first Christmas, was the best of all for me. I had one of my holiday asthma attacks, and I was standing in line at the Pharmacy.
I had just paid for my medicine, and I was feeling a little uneasy about our Christmas decision. Then, behind me, a young woman stepped forward to pay for her baby's medicine.
"That will be twenty-five dollars," the clerk said.
The woman stood there holding her baby, and she pushed a bag of change onto the counter. The clerk sighed, and she quickly counted the change.
"You're $4.29 short."
Tears sprung to the young mother's eyes. It was a painful sight. What was she going to do???
"I don't have it." She said.
"I'm sorry." The clerk replied, obviously embarrassed.
Suddenly, a light burst forth in my soul.
"Wait! I can pay for it!" I cried. "I have the money!!" I don't think that I have ever felt so filled with joy and understanding, as I wrote a check for the child's medicine.
"Here," said the young woman, as she tried to give me the bag of change.
"No," I replied, as I handed back her change.
"I'll never forget this gift," she said, "nor you."
"Oh, but you don't understand," I barely choked out the words. "You have given me a priceless gift. And the best Christmas I've ever had."
We parted, and I walked out into a Christmas Eve, all at once filled with light. My heart sang. I cried all the way home, just as I am now. I realized that it doesn't matter when we decide to hear and see. It only matters that we do.
Father in heaven, grant us the grace to hear and see, more than we ever have before. Let each day be a new day to allow our hearts to open towards others. I know that I fail in this, and it always amazes me just how blunt my perceptions can be. By Your grace, I can become a more compassionate, seeing, hearing child of God. In Your name, Amen
Saturday, September 06, 2008