“There was a man who had two sons. The younger one said to his father, ‘Father, give me my share of the estate.’ So he divided his property between them. “Not long after that, the younger son got together all he had, set off for a distant country and there squandered his wealth in wild living.” Luke 15:11-13
We, the prodigal people, are squandering our earthly inheritance.
After he had spent everything, there was a severe famine in that whole country, and he began to be in need. So he went and hired himself out to a citizen of that country, who sent him to his fields to feed pigs. He longed to fill his stomach with the pods that the pigs were eating, but no one gave him anything. (v 14-16)
When will our hunger leave us desperately longing, even for food fit for pigs?
“When he came to his senses, he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired servants have food to spare, and here I am starving to death! I will set out and go back to my father and say to him: Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son; make me like one of your hired servants.’ So he got up and went to his father. (v 17-20a)
When will we come to our senses?
“But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him. “The son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’ (v. 20b-21)
There will be a sensational celebration that day!
In our new sensation…
We will see,
shade by shade and color by color,
without presumption or conclusion.
We will hear,
word by word and sound upon sound,
without any hint of assumption.
We will smell,
scent by scent and odor by odor,
without recollection or revulsion.
We will taste,
bitter and sour, salty and sweet,
without hunger or apprehension.
We will touch,
soft and tender, harsh and painful,
without reluctance or anesthetization.
What will I do when I come to my senses? What will you?
For only then will we, the prodigal people,
realize just how far we’ve gone,
and decide it’s time to come home.
I woke to the sound of whimpering turned to whining and then a generalized commotion. Silver, my decrepit and dementia -laden husky, had wandered in the wee hours and found himself trapped behind a chair. He was flailing, unsuccessfully, to free himself.
Upon seeing his predicament, I turned on the light, so he could see I was coming. Then I heaved the offending chair out of the way and lifted the anxious furry fellow out of his captivity. After helping him to his bed, I stroked his fur, until his breathing got easier and his face showed more contentment.
The stroking of fur. The breathing of calm. The touch of two souls in caress and comfort. How had I never seen this before? This place of prayer? So simple.
We don’t touch anymore. Or is it I who don’t touch anymore?
I set out into my day, dedicated to touching, physically touching, those who might receive me. But each sat behind his own computer, sat in rapt attention to her phone, traveled in his own world, speaking to no one or to the someone on the other side of those headphones. Even the man who paused to catch his breath was reluctant to receive my tentative tap. And I was afraid to offer it; we were strangers, after all.
Do not impose yourself. Don’t offend, surprise, overstep. Be cautious about touching; when it is unwanted, it is suspect or even abuse. Better to stand off than to stand near. Don’t crowd me. This is my space, not yours. Take your leave. I decide who I touch and who touches me.
What a neglected sense is touch, except in the most conceptual of ways: commercials that are “moving,” gifts we find “touching,” words that “get” us. But physical contact, the act of touch, has barely a place in our days.
Friends, as you go through your days today, if you touch someone, let it be prayer.
Close your eyes and what do you see?
Pin your nose and what do you smell?
Shut your mouth and what do you taste?
Cover your skin and what do you feel?
Hold your ears and… you still hear what you heard before, just a bit quieter. I can’t shut out sound like I can dim sights, smells, tastes and touches. It just keeps coming despite my best efforts. Which reminds me of the white noise I used to create in my dorm room by turning the dial on my stereo so it was between stations. (Youngsters, see radio here, which actually makes for some fascinating physics reading!)
Oh, how quiet the dorm seems now compared to the world that is hammering at my door and pounding on my ear drums. And it doesn’t come just with volume but with velocity. It has the power to take me down. Literally, to run me out. This is complete irony to me, someone who has to listen so carefully to remember what I hear. I have to turn the dial just so and focus all my attention just there so I can hear, process and remember what you say.
And this tuning in leaves me completely at the mercy of the noise. I’ve turned up the gain, and everything else is louder, too. The shouting, the loud, the angry, the oblivious, the crying, and those who really need someone to listen. By tuning everything out, I don’t hear. I don’t hear them. I don’t hear You. How can I tamp down the background so I can listen carefully, completely? So when the moment for listening comes I will give it my full attention.
Suddenly, in have walked sound cancellation head phones. (My husband bought me these, which is a fascinating observation on our marriage – but here, it’s working :)) So, how do those headphones DO that? They cancel the sounds around you so you can hear just what you want to. If you don’t pipe in any music, there are still sounds, but these aren’t distracting. It’s as if the headphones tell your ears, “Don’t pay any attention to that.”
These headphones really are quite amazing. Canceling offending noises without quashing them. They don’t shout down the opponent; they meet his onslaught with an equal and opposite force. Poof. Gone. No muss, no fuss. How magnificent! How mighty. How peaceful. What’s left is selected silence, dialed in. Just like in the dorm room.
Selective silence is what I need. Imagine if I could tune out the world’s noise and focus only on that still small voice. Not exclusively, not forever, not in an offensive or off-putting, superior or segregating, critical or judgmental way. The Lord knows this would, perhaps will, tempt me to aim and fire my Silence!! button at the world according to Wendy.
But what if I could learn to hit the sound cancellation button just as needed? When I need to hear only one sound and one voice. It’s good to know the Tech is available.
This post is dedicated to three women who are listening for medical news right now and I am privileged to hold them up in my listening.