Do you hear what I hear???
It drives me to drink.
It drives me to teetotaling.
It drives me to laughter and to sorrow.
It fills me and leaves me cavernously empty.
It drives me to shop ceaselessly and shames me into frugality.
It makes me overeat and tempts me to starve myself.
It drives me to jealousy and chides me to be grateful for what I have.
It motivates me to seek solitude and drives me into crowded rooms.
It urges me to connect with friends and cautions me to steer clear of everyone.
What is "it"? It is most definitely not anything available on Ebay.
I will quote one of my favorite books.
"Some years into our spiritual journey, after the waves of anticipation that mark the beginning of any pilgrimage have begun to ebb into life's middle years of service and busyness, a voice speaks to us in the midst of all we are doing. There is something missing in all of this, it suggests. There is something more.
"The voice often comes in the middle of the night or the early hours of morning, when our hearts are most unedited and vulnerable. At first, we mistake the source of this voice and assume it is just our imagination. We fluff up our pillow, roll over, and go back to sleep. Days, weeks, even months go by and the voice speaks to us again: Aren't you thirsty? Listen to your heart. There is something missing.
"We listen and are aware of... a sigh. And under the sigh is something dangerous, something that feels adulterous and disloyal... We sense a passion deep within that threatens a total disregard for the program we are living; it feels reckless, wild. Unsettled, we turn and walk quickly away, like a woman who feels more than she wants to when her eyes meet those of a man not her husband."
Have you ever heard that voice? I have heard that voice all life long. But the first time I heard it, breathed that sigh, and panicked was in 1994 when my daughter was about a year old. In my mind, I'd "arrived." I had graduated from college, married a generous and loving man, and worked for four years as a teacher and college counselor. We had bought our first house. I had gotten pregnant without any difficulty, given birth to a beautiful daughter, and was taking graduate classes when I heard it. I didn't just hear the question; I felt it in my inner harbor, that safe place that no one has access to but me. I shook it off as selfish discontent. How dare I want more? How dare I think that there was more than what I had? What was I supposed to do with those feelings? I wondered if they were worthy of attention or if I should simply ignore them, hoping they'd go away.
It was at that point in my life that I began to look at other people, at couples, at families, and wonder if they too feel that twinge of emptiness, of loneliness, of longing that I felt so profoundly. But I never had the courage to ask. I didn't want to "give men the wrong idea" and I didn't want women to think I was after their husbands. I couldn't ask my pastor or anyone else at church because I was so deeply involved (I taught Bible studies, for goodness sake), that I thought everyone would wonder about the truth and seriousness of my faith. Heck, I wondered about it myself. Fast forward to 2006...
Nowadays most of the time I feel grounded; the answers are clear, and I have no doubts about who I am, what my purpose in life is and where I am going. But there are other times when I feel that feeling again. I hear that voice again. As I write in my journal, as I read book after book, as I explore friendships, relationships, and my faith, and even as I walk Maya up and down our street, I hear the voice and feel the shift in my life's foundation. Is it cracking a little?
I often respond to the questions I hear with questions of my own. Questions that deserve not only serious consideration but also acceptable answers. How do I, how do we answer that call? Whose voice am I hearing? Since I am not the only one wondering about these things (and it is my firm belief that every person on the planet is asking themselves similar questions), will I find safe, patient, loving people who are willing to tell their stories, ask their questions, and together seek answers?
Sometimes the answers I hear are a little too pat. A little too simplistic. "God said it, and I believe it, and that settles it." "We are right, Gail, and they are wrong. Don't allow these frivolous questions to cloud your clear judgment." "If you have any doubts, that your problem." "You have always been too open-minded and liberal for your own good." Sometimes they are a little too dreamy. "I'm going to try a little bit this and a little bit of that, and whatever feels good, I'll do that until I find something better." "Just pray, Gail. Clarity and peace will come."
I know I'm being long-winded today, but this is a never-ending inner conversation. What I'm sharing here is merely today's chapter. By the way, the quote about the voices came from John Eldredge's The Sacred Romance. A fascinating read. Today I began The Holy Longing. Similarly intriguing. In different ways, both books tap into the source of The Voice and how we hear it, recognize it, and spend our entire lives responding to it.
After all, it is that holy longing for sacred, true romance,
for deep fulfillment, and for lasting connection that
drives us to marry and then to divorce.
It drives us from one job to another.
From one car to another, one house to the next.
From one meal to the next.
From one book, movie, CD to the next.
One church to the next.
One friendship to the next.
From one continent to another.
Perhaps we will find the answer, the lasting peace, comfort, and whatever that thing is that we can't quite name, in the next paycheck, bonus, award, promotion, relationship, rendezvous, or whatever that thing is that we can't yet identify. But we'll know it when we see it, find it, buy it, own it, sell it, or get the newest model of it.
Do you hear what I hear?