Actually Listening To God

The other day I read this short poem from the 13th-century poet Rumi, which left me feeling troubled: 

you've never really listened
to what God has always
tried to tell you

yet you keep hoping
after your mock prayers
salvation will arrive. 

After reading that, all I really have to say is, "Ugh!" It landed on me pretty hard, and I've been thinking about it since.  But I've discovered some things as I've reflected on this poem that I'd like to share.  

There are a couple of lenses through which to view this poem, at least in my opinion.  Let me explain. 

The first way is through the lens of shame which leads to an overwhelming sense of failure.  

This lens is informed by beliefs about God that are not helpful, namely that God is always ticked off and judgmental--A God who sees us as sinful wretches deserving of everlasting punishment. 

Reading Rumi's poem through that lens results in an inner monologue that goes something like this: 

"I'm sinful and awful because I don't do everything that God (the Bible) tells me to do. I always fall short of being the person I'm supposed to be.  How could God ever love me?  Why would I expect God to hear my prayers?"

But there's another lens through which to read the poem.  It's through the lens of God's grace, mercy, and love.  When you read the poem through the lens of God's love, you see something unique.  

Through the lens of love, we see that the things God is speaking to us that we've never really listened to aren't a series of harsh commands to jump through hoops---they're words of affirmation, unconditional love, and acceptance.  

Most of us don't hear those words from God, which is a tragedy.  

And so our prayers for salvation from the trials, tribulations, challenges, and obstacles in our life get misdirected. We turn our gaze inward, filled with shame and self-loathing.  

Our ideas of salvation then become self-centered, individualistic, and myopic.  We see salvation as avoiding pain rather than experiencing transcendent, encountering hope, and being filled with glorious purpose. 

It's no wonder that so many of us walk around believing that God somehow is deaf to our cries or, at the very least, is simply allowing us to twist in the wind because we've failed to do what God wants us to do.  

In reality, all God wants us to do is listen to God's words of love that are being spoken over us all the time.  

God wants us to know that our salvation is in the hands of a loving and gracious God, which means we don't have to live in fear or dread of anything.  

God wants us to know that we are loved, cherished, accepted, and enough.  

May you listen to the words God is speaking over you, and may they fill you with a sense of unbridled joy today and every day.  May you know that your salvation is eternal: It was worked out before the beginning of all things, and you are held by a God who never lets you go. 

And may the grace and peace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you now and always. Amen.   


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