I was sitting in the hospital waiting room surrounded by dozens of people all waiting and listening for their name to be called. Some were reading, some scrolling through things on their phone, some flicking through old magazines, some just sitting and waiting and listening. Look at their faces… wrinkled frowns, worried looks, mouths down-turned, eyes focused on the desk where the nurse or doctor will appear and call their name. Heads tilted to hear the voice, anxious not to miss it.
It occurred to me that I don’t listen enough. In the morning the radio goes on and stays on all day. In the car music or words accompany me on my journeys. I get bored so I phone someone for a blether. My prayer book tells me silence should be left here and I pay it little heed. I count to ten. Will that be enough for the introverts? It’s Lent so I’ll make it twenty.
And I remembered a poem prayer I once read. But what was it called and who wrote it? And I found it in my Quotes Journal and I read it and switched off the radio and listened. Today I remembered that peace can be mine if I just listen. I might hear my name called. You are my beloved child.
Down near the bottom
of the crossed-out list
of things you have to do today,
between ‘green thread’
and ‘broccoli’ you find
that you have pencilled ‘sunlight’.
Resting on the page, the word
is as beautiful, it touches you
as if you had a friend
and sunlight were a present
he had sent you from some place distant
as this morning – to cheer you up,
and to remind you that,
among your duties, pleasure
is a thing,
that also needs accomplishing
Do you remember?
that time and light are kinds
of love, and love
is no less practical
than a coffee grinder
or safe spare tyre?
Tomorrow you may be utterly
without a clue
but today you get a telegram,
from the heart in exile
proclaiming that the kingdom
the king and queen alive,
still speaking to their children,
to any one among them
who can find the time,
to sit out in the sun and listen.
George Frederic Watts – Hope (1886) Tate National Gallery
I came across this prayer many years ago in ‘Becoming what I am’ by HA Williams (DLT, 1977). Somehow I find it just when I need it most.
O God, I am so hellishly angry;
I think so-and-so is a swine;
I am tortured by worry about this or that;
I am pretty sure I have missed my chances in life;
this or that has left me feeling terribly depressed.
But nonetheless here I am like this,
feeling both bloody and bloody-minded,
and I am going to stay here for ten minutes.
You are most unlikely to give me anything.
I know that.
But I am going to stay for the ten minutes nonetheless.
The myriad of dancing colours begins to fade as the young woman falls back against her pillows, exhausted by the exertion of sitting upright. Her own smile is fading and the figure standing over her leans forward. Staring into those eternal eyes, she sees his lips move and finds a distant memory, locked in the darkest recesses of her mind, as his words fill her being.
The time that my journey takes is long and the way of it long.
I came out on the chariot of the first gleam of light, and pursued my voyage through the wildernesses of worlds leaving my track on many a star and planet.
It is the most distant course that comes nearest to thyself, and that training is the most intricate which leads to the utter simplicity of a tune.
The traveller has to knock at every alien door to come to his own, and one has to wander through all the outer worlds to reach the innermost shrine at the end.
My eyes strayed far and wide before I shut them and said `Here art thou!’
The question and the cry `Oh, where?’ melt into tears of a thousand streams and deluge the world with the flood of the assurance `I am!’
Journey Home by Rabindranath Tagore
Darkness is circling her; the young woman is gripping the edge of the bed. Three rosy faced children peer out from the photograph on the bedside cabinet, their bright smiles projecting hopefully and unsuspectingly into the future. The figure, blazing light as through a summer cloud, is greatly troubled in spirit and deeply moved. Slowly, he holds out his hand to her. She is reaching out to him, fingers outstretched, quivering, and she sees the silent tears flowing from those blazing, eternal eyes.
Photographer: Matt Levin
Dust and the seed embrace. From the earth spring the tendrils of life.
Reaching upwards and forwards, we face the storms. Nourished by the soft spring showers, enriched by the summer’s glow, we ready ourselves for the trials of autumn and winter.
How deep are our roots, how strong the anchors? Have we prayed together; like the rustling of leaves through the forest down the years? Have we worshipped and loved together, so that our roots entwine and in God run deep and true?
So that, as the forests around us fade into the mist and we stand alone, wiser and blessed, facing the One who loves us, have we matured, have we been all that we were called to be?
Now is the time to open our hearts and reach out to God. For nourishment, for understanding. Now is the time to stand and to listen. So that, at the last when we lean forward to hear the beat of the earth’s heart, as we stoop down to embrace the dust, we can clap our hands with joy.
Photograph courtesy of Gordon Nichol
I saw a stranger at yestere’en,
I put food in the eating place,
Drink in the eating place,
Music in the listening place.
And in the sacred name of the Triune
He blessed me and my house,
My cattle and my dear ones,
And the lark said in her song
goes the Christ in the stranger’s guise.
Celtic Rune of Hospitality.
Reading this today it’s relevance to me shouted out.