for release Friday June 18, 2004
by Melodie Davis
Chinese Water Torture, Speeding Lawnmowers, and Hearing God
The retreat leader was talking about Samuel, the child in the Old Testament who slept in the temple because he was a helper for the old priest, Eli. One night he heard the voice of God there.
Don, our retreat leader wondered, “Have any of you ever spent a night alone in the church sanctuary? What might you expect to hear?”
That night when I went to bed in the camp’s cottage I didn’t hear a voice from heaven. What I heard was drip, drip, drip.
From the shower stall in the women’s quarters a maddening steady drop pounded the bottom of the cement stall. How had the other women managed to get to sleep so quickly? None of us had even heard the drip earlier, but then maybe we were noisy. Now it drummed like an evil torturer intent on destroying my hoped-for sleep.
I got up and tried to turn the faucets off, as hard as I could turn them. No luck. I placed my washcloth at the bottom of the stall hoping to absorb the sound. No change. Plop. Plop. Plop.
Should I move to one of the empty rooms upstairs in the cottage? Ugh, that would require completely remaking my bed. Could I try just sleeping with blankets and no sheets, making the move easier? I recoiled at the thought of sleeping on the bare mattress that only God knew who all had slept on it. Should I sleep out in my minivan? That didn’t sound very comfortable, either.
Two men were still talking in the meeting room so I decided to be brave and slipped on my bathrobe. Immediately they perceived that they had been talking too loudly but I told them the real reason for my problem. They tried also to turn the faucets off tightly. They still dripped. Finally one of the men had an idea to tie a long length of thick paper towels to the showerhead, thereby absorbing the drips before they could reach the floor. I feared what would happen when the paper toweling became saturated, but it didn’t turn out to be a problem. My problem was solved. I was so grateful to my two brothers in the church for their creative, quick and functional solution.
I hadn’t heard the voice of God, but my late night frustration did lead me to a new appreciation of the need for other people—a community to reach out to when we need help. They act as absorbers, too—helping to soak up the worry, frustration, needs and crises with which we are surrounded.
Unfortunately, too many of us are inclined to turn to God or the church only when we need help. It seems like a crisis gets our attention. I’m not one to say that God uses such crises on purpose—seems too cruel—but it’s like the fact that the media rarely broadcast the good news, only the bad. The same way with humans. We don’t bother God when everything is going well, only when someone is sick, or taking a trip, or needs a job, or a marriage is splitting up. If things are going well, if the news is good, who pays attention? When things go wrong, we ask, “Why me, God, why?” But when things are going along okay we seldom stop to ask, “Why me, God, why?”
I had a lucky break on a lawnmower recently. Since this is lawnmowing season, it may serve as a cautionary tale and keep someone else from getting hurt. My husband and I were quickly trying to polish off the church lawn on a busy Saturday afternoon, and I frankly was paying more attention to not hitting the tree with the mower than to the always-perilous low limbs. Suddenly, bam. The branch hit the top of my head with such force it jerked my head back as in a whiplash. I was rounding the tree much too fast. I heard a sickening noise, maybe it was just the crunch of the limb on my head. I stopped the mower and moved my neck around. It really shook me up, thinking about all the bad things that could have happened. Why was I so lucky? I was a little sore the next two days but it could have been very bad. I was very thankful to God. In this case, the message was very clear: I needed to slow down and take it easy around trees. And my husband trimmed off even more low limbs at church.
Even if you don’t literally spend a night in the church sanctuary, pause and think about your life for the last couple weeks. Think about what God may be saying to you. Thank God for the accidents avoided and the protection afforded. Thank God for human beings who help absorb the worries, the frustrations and dripping faucets, and who trim off low limbs. It is one thing to feel that God is way out “there” somewhere, but quite nice to have “a God with skin on,” like the old story goes.
For a free booklet, “Making Sense Out of Suffering,” write to: Melodie Davis, Another Way c/o Name\Address of YOUR newspaper; or e-mail: Melodie@mennomedia.org.
You can also visit Another Way on the Web at www.thirdway.com.
Melodie Davis is the author of seven books and has written her column since 1987. She taught feature writing and has won awards from the National Federation of Press Women, Virginia Press Women and the American Advertising Association. She and her husband have three daughters.
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