Recently, I was fitted with new hearing aids. My first set were starting to play out, so after testing by the audiologist, I was determined to have experienced additional hearing loss requiring me to need some that are more sensitive. And that is what I got. The first couple of days wearing them was quite an experience. The volume for everything seemed turned up exponentially.
The sounds of my walking around the house or even in the grass were so magnified that I thought someone was following me. The first time our dogs came running into the kitchen with their nails clicking on the hardwood floor, my first thought was that someone had left the door open allowing every dog in the neighborhood to join the posse begging for food. And when I turned on the faucet, it was as if I were standing near Niagara Falls.
My auditory ability was so enhanced I warned friends that I could even hear what they were thinking. Fortunately, my audiologist has now adjusted the sensitivity on those hearing aids so that I no longer jump when my dogs bark.
Seriously, I am truly grateful to be able to enjoy the song birds in the yard and not having to ask my wife to constantly repeat herself. When I read that 48 million Americans have some level of hearing loss, I consider myself blessed to have something that minimizes my deafness. Any reduction in the ability to hear certainly can affect one’s quality of life because of the sounds that are missed.
But I suspect that when on those occasions Jesus said “Let anyone with ears listen,” he was more focused on getting his audience to pay attention than on whether he would have to repeat himself. While their auditory sense allowed his listeners to physically hear him, it was the content of what he said that was all important because it often pointed to God’s presence in our world.
And to some extent, that’s what Frederick Buechner was getting at when he wrote about the significance of those seemingly unimportant parts of our existence, such as taking children to school, kissing a spouse, and eating lunch with a friend, the times when God is every bit as present as during the times we consider to be “holy.”
Buechner concludes with this challenge: “Listen to your life. See it for the fathomless mystery that it is. In the boredom and pain of it no less than in the excitement and gladness: touch, taste, smell your way to the holy and hidden heart of it because in the last analysis all moments are key moments, and life itself is grace.”
The “listening” to which Buechner referred is very much the same as what Jesus was telling his audience to do. It is about paying attention with our hearts and minds to the details of our lives because that is where we encounter the holy. Hearing songbirds is great, but being aware of God’s presence each day is what we should strive for.