Sometimes I will see Bill walking around the house, and it’s clear he’s on the hunt for something. What are you looking for, I’m liable to ask him. My glasses, he might say, or or I left my can of Diet Coke somewhere and I can’t find it.
As for me, if I’m looking for something, it’s almost always going to be my cell phone. I seem to be completely unable to keep track of the darn thing. Always keep it in the same place, I’ll tell myself, just about the time I set it down on the patio table or on the side of the bathtub.
What are you looking for?
After weeks of hearing the lovely Christmas stories at Mass about the birth of Jesus and the visits from the shepherds and the magi and King Herod’s evil plan for the baby Jesus that was thwarted by a dream courtesy of angels, we finally got to hear Jesus speak to us once more in this weekend’s gospel. What does he say to us after all of these weeks? What are you looking for are the words that St. John tells us were spoken by Jesus.
I know how I would answer if Jesus was to appear to me (probably rolling his eyes and handing me my misplaced cell phone) and ask me what are you looking for. I’m looking for easy answers. I’m looking for you to solve my problems, and be quick about it. I’m looking for arrows to point me in the direction I’m supposed to go. I’m looking for a list of things I’m supposed to do and things I’m not supposed to do. I’m looking for all of those other people to make correct choices and make my life easier.
There is something right now in my otherwise good life with which I’m struggling. It’s largely outside my control which, of course, makes it frustrating and doesn’t stop me from trying my best to control it anyhow. I pray and pray about it, and God seems to be turning a deaf ear to me.
Except that I know he isn’t. A long time ago, I came across this quote: God answers prayers in one of three ways: Yes; Not now; I have a better idea. I remind myself of that when it seems like God isn’t listening.
I also remind myself that I am also not listening to God. I try. I really do. I wish he would speak to me in a dream the way that he spoke to Joseph and the three magi. I wish I could come across a burning bush. I wish a miracle would occur. That would make it easy to listen to God. Alas, the only fire I generally see is when my grill gets too hot and my steaks are aflame.
I love the story in the first Book of Samuel in which Samuel hears a voice in the night calling for him. He runs and wakes up Eli and asks him what he wants. Eli, likely pretty cranky from being awakened in the middle of the night, tells Samuel he didn’t call him and go back to bed. That happens a couple more time times before Eli finally tells him, listen Bud, it isn’t me calling you; it’s the Lord. So the next time Samuel hears the cry, he says, “Speak, for your servant is listening.” Boom. It goes on to say that Samuel grew up and the Lord was with him.
I know that every single minute of every single day, God listens to me, speaks to me, and gives me what I’m looking for, which is grace. He doesn’t need to speak any louder. I just need to listen more carefully.