“Listen,” He whispered to me, “just listen.”
“I am listening and I hear too much!” I answer desperately, hopelessly.
“I am tossed on a violent sea of words, an ocean of phrases and utterances. On the horizon I see a billowing hurricane of political buzz words, cultural accusations, and inhumane testimonies tossing the sea, making huge waves across the dark depths. Each rotation of the massive word storm feeding on itself as it fights to stay in power, to stay relevant, to grow larger, and to wield more terror.”
“Listen?” I ask? “All I do is listen.”
“I hear the rolling thunder of protests because of racial injustice. I flinch as the clouds pour a deluge of tears from people being tossed in the sea of “progressive” speak. I brace as a tsunami of politicians’ lies feeds the giant wave as it crashes into a sleepy shore where unsuspecting people, just trying to get through their day, are convicted by the unforgiving tempest. Yes, I hear it all.”
He said, “No, I’m telling you to listen deeper.”
“What do you want from me? I listen to podcasts telling me how evil the other side is. I hear the pundits point their accusations toward plain parents trying to make good decisions for their children. The shouts through my earphones from the professor laying blame at people based on melanin levels are deafening.”
“I hear the sounds like the roaring rapids of the cash register at the grocery store ring haggardly as it reveals a higher number than last week’s higher number and the gas pump tick faster and faster as it figures the totals and the college administrators’ adding machine clickity clacking as it adds up the cost of an education. I hear the waves crashing against the dam I build around my daughter, desperately trying to keep her out of the storm long enough for her to grow and face it herself.”
“Yes, I hear plenty.”
“I hear people with complete lack of perspective, gliding above the ocean of words on a tip-proof yacht, pointing out from its decks at those fighting to keep their heads above the sea of words and telling them how they need to learn that they have oppressed people and that is why life has been harder for them.”
“’You are the reason I felt uncomfortable in my time at the university!’ booms the man from the bough of his ship down to the middle-aged woman who once was considered middle class but is rapidly sinking down into the abyss of inflation and will soon count herself amongst the impoverished, who never had one bit of power over any other human being.”
“And then, I hear her tiny voice back as she reaches up out of the bogs toward the man on the ocean liner, ‘But I never even knew you’ as her mouth fills with hateful words from social media, drowning her with accusations of misogyny, bigotry, and racism.”
“Yes, I listen all the time.”
He said, “You only listen to what you are tuned into. Can you look out, beyond the stormy ocean and cling to a different message, one from peaceful, calm waters? Can you hear the silence that comes with contentment? Can you perk your ears to a different tune?
I wince and reply, “I have heard about the quiet sea beyond the storm. I have searched for the calm myself, but no matter where in this world I look, I cannot find it. I listen for the peaceful, gentle roll of the waves from a quieted ocean, but the storm is too loud and big. I can’t keep my head above the crashing waves of disappointment.”
“You cannot find that peace in this world. If you rely only on your fellow man, peace will always elude you. Look further out, further still. Do you see the sun on the horizon? Can you hear the voices quieting? Can you feel your body relax, your mind dance with hope, your heartbeat slowing, your soul stirring? Listen for the quiet. Listen.”
My mind searches beyond the storm. I close my eyes and strain to hear the silence in all of the swirl of words around me. I ignore the social media posts blowing in like a Nor’easter and I suppress the hurricane of lies from politicians trying to scare me into giving them more control. I disregard the whirlpool of elitists separating us all by race and gender and victimhood. And there, just beyond all the cacophony of the storm, I hear it…peace.
“There’s a small hum, what is that?”
“Listen harder,” He says.
“Is that singing?” Yes, yes. I can just make it out. There’s a swelling of it now, of many voices who have swum beyond the storm-tossed seas to…to what? To peace? I close my eyes now and keep swimming toward the joyful sound of voices singing. I begin to make out the words. But just as I am catching the chorus, crash, goes the thunder and swoosh goes the wind and for a moment, I lose the melody.
“Focus now, keep listening.”
“It’s so hard. I’ve lost my direction again. I can’t make out the singing now.” Another nor’easter blows in as we go through another political cycle and another waterfall of words into the dark, tossed seas, this time it’s the doctor giving me bad news and a family member in pain. Friends on social media ridicule in another tsunami of insults. I just can’t seem to…
“I am right here. You’re closer than you think. Close your eyes, now, and follow my voice.”
And then I hear Him. I hear the singing again. Oh, yes, I hear them all! I look out beyond the storm and the new gathering clouds and I see, again, the hazy sun on the horizon. And I see them, a giant raft with people on it singing. What is it that…oh, I can…Oh, I join in…
“it is well, with my soul, it is well, it is well, with my soul.”
Now I hear it loud and clear, all the beautiful notes from those who have a deep understanding of what they are singing. I swim harder toward the raft as if the storm were chasing me, because it is. I look back one more time and begin to sink when the lightning tears the sky and illuminates the enormity of the storm and the towering waves of the dark abyss.
“Don’t look back,” he says. “Keep listening for Me.”
I turn my head back toward the hazy sun and pull away from the storm that reaches for my ankles in a last-ditch effort to control me, to pull me back into the gulf. I begin to feel the sun on my face and the waters calm beneath me. I reach to my face to wipe away the sea spray and then realize they are my own tears. “When did I start crying?”
I’m compelled forward with such determination to reach the raft and join the other survivors of the never-ending storm. Now I’m close enough to realize that the light isn’t the sun at all, but a glow from the Man who told me how to find Him. He stands there, shining like a lighthouse on a rocky shore; a solid fortress in a storm.
“Now, you can hear me,” he said, smiling, seeming to be as happy to see me as I was to see Him.
“Yes. I can hear every word now,” I cry, realizing that the storm doesn’t just sound far away now, but nonexistent.
I turn once more to see the storm behind me. I realize that from this angle, the storm is somehow miniscule. I see the desperate people fighting for air as they are tossed and thrown about the waves. I see the looks on their faces as they look ahead to see another whirlpool before them and another wall of water behind them. I see the panic as they struggle to pull themselves above the surface, and I wonder why I didn’t grab more of them on my way toward the Peace?
“They have to find their own way through the storm, but I am with them,” and then He whispers in my ear, “just as I was there with you.”