I am listening more deeply, more intently, and with a greater sense of urgency, than I have ever listened. I am listening to the lonely cry out for human touch and the holy cry out for sacraments shared. I am listening to words of joy and lament from the masked mouths of strangers and friends alike. I am listening to Black, Latinx, Asian, and Native American people cry out afresh an old, old song of unspeakable trauma, yet refulgent with hope. I am listening to slow-motion sounds of collapse as political maneuvers falter and fail. I am listening to ice melting beneath the paws of the polar bear. I am listening to the inhalation and exhalation of breath, rhythmically reminding me that every moment is precious, and none is a given. I am listening to the heart of God beneath it all.
Are you listening? I hear you, even as I type this, and I know that you are. Somehow, I hear us, gathered in ourlistening. It is the sound of a single heart learning, re-learning to listen to the Word, and to the world.
In such listening, St. Paul heard creation groaning “in eager longing for the revealing of the children of God.” In such listening, Elijah heard that “still, small voice” which was not to be heard in wind, earthquake, or fire. In such listening, Jesus heard the God he knew as Abba say, “This is my Beloved, in whom I am well pleased.” And he heard another call, to the darkness of Calvary.
If you’re hearing what I’m hearing, maybe we’re listening to the Church becoming more. In this place “within listening distance of the silence we call God” (R.S. Thomas) and within shouting distance of one another, we are finding something precious: a deep church. These are shouts of ‘Why?’ and ‘How Long?’ but also ‘Thank You’ and ‘I’m Here for You’ and ‘Amen.’ We’ve long stewarded this deep church in packets of seeds, but often planted them in seasonal gardens: a retreat here, a small group there, an afternoon of Sabbath rest. In this new place, we’re learning a different way. In between the unmaking of one world and the gestation of another, stricken in conscience, overflowing with questions, and wrestling with demons, we’re learning that spiritual practice, presence, and purpose are the seeds we need to survive.
Blessedly, history shows that these are the causes and conditions that make saints: Christians of depth. Moved by those pressures, we’re doing our inner work because it is the work to be done. We’re learning to pray one distracted word at a time, to meditate one distracted breath at a time, to measure our hours and days. We’re speaking the truth of what truly matters to us and listening to others do the same because none of us have all the time in the world, and we know it. The powerful among us are learning to listen to the disempowered without defensiveness or pride. We’re discovering how to abide like a planted seed in the darkness of impasse because our faith, our impossible “conviction of things not seen,” tells us that seeds were made to grow. We can’t go over or under or around the pain. And so, together, we are going through it, into the depths.
Jesus said, “Pay attention to how you listen.” Let’s keep listening to him, and to one another.
Yours in Christ,
Br. Keith Nelson