I have all kinds of conversations these days. I wish I could report they are filled with helpful communication. But that would require definition of what is “helpful” and, indeed, what qualifies as “communication.”
I am relearning how to walk, talk and eat. I already knew how to do these things. Six months ago the stroke knocked me back to, effectively, where I was at age 1 (if not earlier) for these basic skills. These days I think God was wise to let us learn skills like that before we can think about them. Or ask questions. Much simpler at that age than this.
I get a variety of advice, instruction, encouragement, correction, and exercises from people with credentials who mean me no harm. What I don’t get are any guarantees or definite times that I can expect improvements. People tell me they see some already. I am always glad to hear these reports. But I am more aware of what still doesn’t work right. It will come, I’m told. It takes effort. It takes time. And the time is in God’s hands. I don’t disagree with any of that. Except to note I’m the one making the effort and taking the time. And still waiting to see results. (Other are interested in results, too, which is why they are bothering to speak up, of course.)
The advice and direction comes from multiple voices. If they all said the same thing, it would be simpler. They don’t. The variations I hear raise questions in my mind. I have no interest in disputing what I’m told to do. It’s just that I don’t see how to do it all at the same time. I don’t know how to go right and left simultaneously. So I always look like I’m ignoring someone or being rebellious or stubborn. Those are, of course, the only explanations observers can think of to explain why I am failing to simply do what I’m told. Why do I insist on making things harder for myself? Why wasn’t I paying attention when the instructions were given to me…?
So far, at least, it seems I don’t have the problem one dear friend had. She discovered, first, that she was allergic to most of the food she’d been eating. Then a medicine was prescribed to neutralize the toxic reaction. But it was discovered the new medicine created a bad reaction with another necessary medication she was already on. Who would make the choice of which medication should take priority?
It is, finally, a question of authority, of who is in charge of the game. Is it the coach? The team owner? The fan watching in the stands, emotionally wrapped up in the results and who has seen clearly the whole situation? How could any of them be wrong? How could they disagree with each other? Everybody wants the same thing – for the player to score the point. What is the problem?
And let me say right up front I’m glad I have the problem. Another old friend of mine wrote us while I was composing this meditation. He lives alone, is badly crippled, is unable to leave his mobile home – and lives where the snow lasts a long time. Lord, have mercy on my friend. No doubt he would be happy to have to deal with the issue I am raising of all those voices talking over each other, the greener grass we all see on the other side of the fence.
To repeat, what is the problem I’m pondering here?
It is the multiple viewpoints and multiple wills, multiple choices, conflicting priorities. Too many chiefs and not enough Indians. It makes things noisy and confusing. I wonder if this is why God sometimes seems silent or absent? Has He chosen to wait until we are ready to listen, rather than force Himself on our attention?
I think He may also be waiting for us to ask the right question. Job and his friends spend most of their conversational time arguing over what Job has done right or wrong. Job argues that he has not done anything wrong and God needs to justify His actions. God challenges Job on whether he is ready for that discussion. Job chooses to shut his mouth and trust that God is doing the right thing, whether He explains it or not, and whether Job can understand it or not. Understanding is all Job ever really asks for but he’s willing to give that up. And, incidentally, it is rather amazing to me that Job never asks to be healed!
I have asked. I think we may. But questions of “why” are off the table. That leaves the questions of “what now” and “who do I listen to?” I need to make choices there.
Not insisting on answers first can be a good thing. Recently, Melanie asked if I wanted to ride along on a trip to Sam’s Club. I was happy to get out of the house. Once we got there, she stopped by the entrance and retrieved an electric cart I could ride through the store. It was a first time and we hadn’t discussed it! I decided to go with it. No one was run over by me and I did not knock down any store displays. We’ll do it again, I’m sure.
Let the prophets speak, said Paul (I Corinthians 14:29). Then, once they’ve been heard, it’s time to evaluate what they’ve said. It gets interesting then. But when the time comes, you have to choose a voice to listen to.