We had our College Camping Trip this past week. It was a wonderful time away. It was the first time in such a long time that we were together as a college group.
One moment that stands out is the long hike we went on. We made the first half of it a silent walk, and there was no talking. We walked by ourselves, spaced out in a single file. I led from the front. I was looking forward to a nice, quiet, leisurely hike to the lookout spot.
To my dismay, however, a family was ahead of us and going quite slowly. They had small kids and a dog, they would stop often and talk loudly. I had to stop the whole group quite often in order to keep our distance and not run into them.
I was a bit annoyed at first, because my attention was distracted by the obstacle in front of us and the human voices disturbing the quiet of the forest.
I realized I was getting bothered, and decided to adjust. I accepted that this was the situation, and decided not to let that detract from the experience of the hike. I accepted the stops I would have to make to keep distance from them, and I tuned out noise coming from them.
Once I did so, I was able to appreciate the immediate surroundings of the forest. I tuned out the human noise and began to hear the sounds of the gentle breeze rustling through the trees. It was such a beautiful, soothing, peaceful sound. The sounds of the trees connected with my soul and I felt restored. I would not have heard those beautiful sounds if I had remained distracted by the people ahead of us.
There is a lot of noise around us, but we are unable to hear.
Hear Your Life
Today’s story is about a deaf man who had a speech impediment. Deaf people cannot speak clearly because they cannot hear their own voices. In an oral culture, being deaf and lacking speech cut him off from life around him. It resulted in a closed existence.
There are many sounds and noises around us, but we suffer from deafness: a deafness to our hearts. The heart in Greek is kardia. Kardia is not just our feelings. The kardia is the seat of our thoughts and emotions. It is the very center of who we are.
To hear your heart is to hear your life.
When you cannot hear your life, you cannot articulate what is actually going on in your life. When we cannot hear, we cannot speak. Without hearing our hearts, without articulating our lives, we we can never really connect with ourselves and others. This is a closed existence.
Life is very busy nowadays. Life is tiring. But when life is in tune with your heart, it doesn’t really matter how busy you are. All we need is physical and mental rest.
When life is disconnected from our hearts, all the busy-ness burns us out. Everything you do becomes a chore and a drain on your energy. It makes you check out on life and become like a zombie. Instead of merely recharging, we seek an escape from this busy life that is disconnected from the center of one’s being. There is no purpose, because how we live our lives does not flow from the center of our being.
This is not the kind of life that God intended for us.
Jesus says to the deaf man with a speech impediment: “Be opened.” (Mark 7:34) This is what happened as soon as he said that: “And immediately his ears were opened, his tongue was released, and he spoke plainly.” (Mark 7:35)
This is at the core of our spiritual journey: To hear our life and what is going on in it; To speak plainly about what is going on in our lives.
Too often, we speak nonsense and gibberish when it comes to our lives. We say things that don’t mean anything. That’s because we can’t hear what is going on in our lives.
Instead of hearing what is going on inside of us, we simply react to what’s in our hearts. If there is anger, we react with anger. If there is fear, we react in fear.
Moses was born when the Hebrews were slaves in Egypt. They had become such a threat that all Hebrew boys had to be thrown into the Nile River. His life, however, was saved when Pharaoh’s daughter found him. He was brought up in the palace of the very power that was killing and oppressing his own people.
I’ve often wondered how conflicted he must have been growing up. He was raised in privilege in the Egyptian court, but he saw firsthand how they were oppressing his own people.
I believe there was a lot of anger and conflict in his heart. But as a young man he was not connected to it. He could not hear his heart. He merely reacted to it. When he saw an Egyptian beating up a Hebrew, he killed the Egyptian.
He ran away from Egypt and spent the next 40 years blocking out the sounds of his heart in the pastures of Midian.
He lived a peaceful and comfortable life there, but he could not completely block out what was in his heart. He got married, and afterward: “She bore a son, and he named him Gershom; for he said “I have been an alien residing in a foreign land.”” (Exodus 2:22) The pains of the past in his heart had not left him.
We may try to ignore the sounds of our heart, but God does not leave us alone. When we are ready to hear, we will hear God speak to our hearts.
This is what happened to Moses:
“Moses was keeping the flock of his father-in-law Jethro, the priest of Midian; he led his flock beyond the wilderness, and came to Horeb, the mountain of God. There the angel of the Lord appeared to him in a flame of fire out of a bush; he looked, and the bush was blazing, yet it was not consumed. Then Moses said, “I must turn aside and look at this great sight, and see why the bush is not burned up.”” (Exodus 3:1-3)
It was just a regular day when God reached out to Moses through the burning bush. Instead of ignoring this great sight, he stopped and turned aside. This began an intense conversation with God, where God revealed Moses’ calling to rescue his people from bondage.
Importance of Reflection
God is always speaking to us. The question is whether we can hear.
When we listen closely to our hearts, God meets us there. When you hear a faint tremor in your heart, do you turn aside to see what that might be? Or do you ignore it and continue on your way? We may run away from our hearts because there is too much pain and we fear the implications of listening to it. But that is where we meet God.
When we can hear God in our hearts, God opens up our life. God took all of Moses’ pain and conflict and opened up his calling to liberate the Hebrew people from Egypt. Our calling is deeply connected with listening to our hearts.
God’s will is to open up our lives. We just need to open our ears to hear God’s voice. This is why daily reflection is important.
As you reflect on what happened each day, ask yourself: what was I thinking? What was I feeling? Why was I feeling or thinking the way I did? Through this kind of reflection, you can hear your heart, and there you will hear God’s voice too. We need to cultivate this spiritual discipline of listening to our hearts.
The spiritual journey is about hearing our hearts, but it begins with recognizing how deaf we are to it. The people around the deaf man begged Jesus to lay his hands on him. They recognized that it was a matter of life or death for the deaf man.
We need to recognize that it is a matter of life or death for us too. Will we continue to stumble along living a life that is closed off? Or will we live a life that is opened up by God?
God wants to open up your life. The things in your heart are unique to you, and God has a unique calling for your life.
Like the townspeople, let us come begging on our knees for God to open up our ears and loosen our tongues.
Opened by God
When God opens our ears to our hearts and loosens our tongues, the words that flow out of our mouths are words of praise. The townspeople could not be stopped from praising God. “They were astounded beyond measure, saying, “He has done everything well; he even makes the deaf to hear and the mute to speak.”” (Mark 7:37) Words of praise are the first things that come out of our mouths when we live a life opened up by God.
Isn’t that a good life? To live life astounded beyond measure at what God has done in our lives? To be in awe and utter gratitude? That is a good life. I really grasped this more during covid, when everything else seemed to be stripped away. I got the sense of how precious life is, and how great God is.
God will open up your life. To our students heading back to school, you will have a lot of schoolwork and face many experiences and challenges. But make time to listen to your heart and be in tune with it. God will speak to you there. To the parents having their children baptized, baptism is a symbol of possibility, a sign of an opened existence. Be connected with your own heart, and nurture your children to as well, so that both you and your children can live a life that is opened up by God’s grace.
We are all baptized into this grace. Let us give thanks to God for this.