Wednesday, July 6, 2016

when you can't find your voice

As I write there are baby owls outside of my window trying to find their voice.
I'm trying to find mine too.

I first heard the faint whistling last week after the kids were tucked into bed.  At first I couldn't tell if the noise was coming from inside or outside of these walls.  Our house is surrounded by woods which means we keep company with deer and turkey and raccoons and all sorts of other critters.  But this particular sound was unfamiliar to me.  In fact, I was so disturbed that I called my husband to see when he would be home because I needed someone brave to investigate the situation.  Thirty minutes later, armed with a flashlight and a handgun, he arrived to save the day.  When he walked down the hill in our front yard just beyond the magnolia tree his flashlight began to reveal them everywhere - round, feathered owlets.  We had seen the parents more frequently as of late, swooping silently through the trees on giant wings.  They must have been busy hunting food for their new arrivals.

If you've ever heard an owl screech you'll know the chills it sends up your spine.  Record it and you'll have the perfect soundtrack for your next Halloween party.  The owlets are different.  There is a slight resemblance to the adult sound but theirs appears muffled and softer.  There is an apparent strength hiding underneath what comes across as weak.  I have been drawn to these creatures who have made themselves at home in the trees along our driveway and even perched atop our roof.  I find myself watching with intrigue, silently cheering for their true voices to break free.

Sometimes there is something strong inside of us, just below the surface, but all we can muster is a weak whistle.  We can give up trying to set our real voice free or we can keep offering up what we have over and over again until the breakthrough happens.

I've wanted to wrap some words around recent tragedies I have seen around my country, but everything I come up with feels too weak.  I've read some lovely prayers written by others but, quite honestly, I haven't been inspired to pen any of my own.  I feel a little bit guilty about that.  I feel slightly selfish being focused more on what is going on in my own life than trying to enter into and process the suffering of others.  Normally I am totally game for that.  Normally my empathy alarm goes off and I dive right into the grief of others headfirst.

Last week,  I sat curled on the couch in my quiet house listening to the owls.  I kept thinking about that voice I was trying to find and decided I would carve out the time and put forth the effort to come up with just the right words to answer the pain and confusion swirling around.  But the words, the answers, wouldn't come.  I closed my eyes and prayed for them.  There was only silence.

The longer I sat the louder another voice grew.  This one wasn't giving me what I wanted.  This one wasn't following orders.  This one had another agenda.  This voice wasn't giving me answers - or maybe it was.  Sometimes the answers don't sound the way we expect.  All I could hear was a clear calling to come back.   To get back to what I've been doing these past months - studying God's word, connecting the dots, capturing bits of the truth and beauty of scripture to offer to the women who are gathering together on Wednesday nights.

Sometimes I try to give myself a new assignment when I've already got one.
Sometimes something demands our attention but that doesn't mean it requires our response.
Sometimes what seems like the most important thing in the world is just a distraction keeping us from what really is.

Just because I have remained silent about Orlando or Baton Rouge or Dallas any of the other heartbreaking situations happening every day around the world, doesn't mean I haven't noticed.  It doesn't mean I haven't been wrestling with the reminders of the fallen state of our world.

All over this country, all over this world, people are killing
and hating
and hurting
and taking away things that are precious to us, precious to God.
I can not speak or write something that will make it all better.
I do not have the answers.
I can not stop the hate and the hurt with my words.

But I can start something else.

I can plant the seeds of eternity into the hearts of others and watch them grow - watch us grow.  I can carry the spirit of God with me everywhere I go so that the fragrance of him can not be ignored.

Sometimes when our voice feels weak it's because we are not using it where we can be strong.  I've begun to realize that perhaps I can be more effective leading the charge God has put in front of me right here in small town South Carolina, than forcing my way into a position of solving problems all around the world.  Perhaps the effect of that work in the 'here and now' will eventually reach to the 'there and then'.  But I'm not responsible for the outcomes of tomorrow.  I can only be obedient today.

There is something I have noticed about owls as I have studied them these past weeks.  Every time my eyes settle on them they have already seen me first.  Their yellow eyes are locked on me following my every move.  They are always alert, always watching, for possible threats and also for possible opportunities.

And here is what is fascinating - those owls typically let the threats pass them by, taking no action to attack.  They watch, but they don't waste their energy responding.  Opportunity is different.  When they see opportunity they take flight.  Without noise and without fanfare they dive down with a laser focus and seize the opportunity.  The reward for them is nourishment for themselves or for those in their care.  They keep themselves and others alive by being alert and not missing opportunities.  I'm guessing if they went after every possible threat they wouldn't be nearly as effective in sustaining life for themselves and others.

Sometimes I try to find my voice when I've already been given one.  I try to reassign myself to a new role when the original one is not yet complete.  Before summer began I was called to dig into what it might look like to live life uncharted.  I was called to examine what it might look like to begin to let go of the lie that everything depends on me.  I was called to share the story of Peter with others as an invitation to exchange our plans for God's plans.

Within that calling is an opportunity to provide nourishment and life for myself and those in my care.  To shift my eyes off of that opportunity, to attend to the threat, would make me less effective.

So today I stand empty handed when it comes to answers about the world's problems, but if it's hope and truth you are seeking - I know where to find heaping handfuls of those.  When I don't know what to do, I know what to do...

We don't know what to do, but our eyes are on you.
2 Chronicles 20:12

When we set our eyes on God, he sets the course for our lives.  And all we have to do is follow.

{NOTE: We are beginning to make my Uncharted Study available for churches and small groups - let me know if you want to jump on board}