Throughout all the debate that is swirling around us, charged up like storm clouds waiting to strike, I hear voices yelling, “Left!” and “Right!” I hear voices yelling “Up!” and “Down!” I hear voices yelling, “Yes!” and “No!” Words fly like lightning, and accusations roar like thunder. I see people retreat into their camps to be propped up by opinions that support their own, and then head back out into the battle. The lightning bolts fly.
And when all of the yelling is too much to take, I climb the mountain to sit and watch and listen. When you watch a storm in the distance you see the darkness of the clouds, and the chaotic destructive power of charged electrons burning frantically through the sky. You hear the tear of the resulting thunder through the air, and watch the rain weeping down. And you get perspective.
I feel lost in this particular storm. I don’t fit neatly into any of the “camps” that are yelling loudest. But when I listen, I can hear them both. Some of what I hear is hate. It is terrible and sad. It comes from a dark place, and may have been hurt or anger at one point, but has rotted into hate, that oozes out like pus, hoping to infect anyone who comes in contact. Some of what I hear is anger, that is often growing out of a root of hurt, or fear, or disappointment. When I listen closely to the anger, I can sometimes hear those roots crying from underneath. And sometimes I hear the raw and pure emotions of those roots – the hurt, the fear, the disappointment in their purest forms.
The hate leaves a pungent disgusting odor. But if you can wait for the winds to clear it away, if you can hold your breath and press through – patiently, deliberately – the other emotions have a sad and sweet fragrance. And they rise up and mix together from both sides of the storm.
If you can step back and watch from the mountain, you can actually see them, the sweet emotions rising up in plumes of color. The blues and the pinks, the reds and purples and greens and yellows, swirling up from the camps, rising up through the rain like smoke, mingling, and dancing sadly and gently, while the lightning continues to rip through.
What if we could stop? What if we could hold back the lightning bolts and silence their thunder? What if we could just hear the patter of the rain, and watch the dance of the smoky, delicate emotions? What if, for just a moment, we could hear each other? I wonder what we might learn. I wonder who might speak to our souls. I wonder how we might grow, as individuals, and as brothers and sisters. I wonder what wounds might be healed, and if the rain might stop. I wonder if the sad fragrance of hurt might turn into the sweetness of empathy, the joy of compassion, or the music of love.
Even though the storm rages, I wonder if we can practice listening. Sacred listening. Listening for the heart of God in each image bearer. Maybe if we listen, we will hear it, the ancient truth from before time that pulses through each of us. Just listen.
“Many people are looking for an ear that will listen. They do not find it among Christians, because these Christians are talking where they should be listening. But he who can no longer listen to his brother will soon be no longer listening to God either; he will be doing nothing but prattle in the presence of God too.” – Dietrich Bonhoeffer