On Canada day last week, Ronke and I decided to drive through the beautiful Monteregie countryside near the US border, with Oluwatofunmi, our daughter. On our way, Tofunmi wanted to listen to her favourite CD produced by the African Children’s Choir but Ronke said to Tofunmi, “Not now Tofunmi, let’s listen to the silence.”
I have been thinking about it since then. I think it is an invitation that should be extended not just to a toddler but to everyone. Listen to the silence. It is counterintuitive because we are trained only to listen to what can be heard with our physical ears. But I know how much I need to listen to the silence, to what cannot be heard with my physical ears, which is more authentic, more trustworthy and wiser than all the noise around me. I know how much I need to stop, calm down and listen to the speaking Voice that I cannot hear, who is also referred to as the Word. That invitation also reminds me of what Greg Mortenson’s mentor Haji Alli said to him: “Listen to the wind.”
When the prophet Elijah was listening for God’s voice, God’s voice was not heard in the strong wind, the earthquake or the fire but in the “still, small voice”. The Almighty’s voice, the voice of wisdom and truth is so still and small that it can be easily drowned by our internal and external noise. It is very much in the character of the Creator to make the most significant things appear insignificant, the most powerful things appear weak and wisdom appear foolish.
God shows up among us as a baby born in a stable and he appears so frail and human that he gets captured and killed by us in order to redeem us through his death and resurrection. The most important event in human history is either meaningless or tragic, if we hear with our heads and not our hearts. The events of our lives are equally meaningless and our relationships dispensable if we engage through our heads which process the noise, rather than our hearts which can discern the truth.
While reading Greg Mortenson’s Stones into Schools,, I found this statement by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, “It is with the heart that one can see rightly; what is essential is invisible to the eye.” It reminded me of what is written in the Bible, my compass, “While we look not at the things which are seen but at the things which are not seen, for the things which are seen are temporal but the things which are not seen are eternal.” What it takes to listen to the silence and hear the inaudible is what it takes to look at what is unseen and see the invisible: the heart.
I feel more and more the need to practice seeing and hearing with my heart. There is ultimate reality and it can only be apprehended with the heart, not just with the mind. There are decisions I need to make, there are steps I need to take, for which I have limited facts and information. Therefore I need to engage my spirit, which is capable of discerning things hidden from my view, hearing the silence and seeing the invisible. This does not at all imply that my mind gets suspended but that its full potential is unleashed as my head follows my heart.
The need to listen to the silence and hear the inaudible is even more urgent today because there is so much noise and we are unable to accurately understand our origin and our destiny by listening to the noise with our minds but to the silence, the truth with our hearts. In addition, the challenges we face today require wisdom and not mere intelligence. We can gain intelligence from the noise around us but wisdom is obtainable by discerning more than we can hear or see, as was prophesied by the prophet Isaiah concerning Jesus Christ years before he was born. “…And He shall not judge by the sight of His eyes, neither decide by the hearing of His ears; But with righteousness and justice shall He judge the poor and decide with fairness for the meek, the poor, and the downtrodden of the earth…”
Ronke’s invitation is one I particularly need to heed because more than ever, I need to live, relate and engage from the heart and not only from my body or my mind.
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