Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Persisting in the Echo Chamber

One of my pet peeves is the failure to respond.

Unless you’re engaged in some sort of audiology research, an echo chamber seems like a distinctly unhelpful venue.

It has always irked me when there is every indication that a message has been received audibly, but the recipient seems unwilling to bother with any kind of response. I imagine one of the many annoying ‘mom-habits’ my children will look back on with chagrin is my insistence that they acknowledge and respond when spoken to.

To my mind, how hard can it be? What’s not to get? It’s simple courtesy. It’s fundamental to human discourse. Even animals initiate and respond to communication amongst their own kind. If the only response is “I’ll get back to you,” one can at least know the communication registered.

But, in terms of magnitude, most of this amounts to minor annoyance. It’s when life heats up, or freezes over, when you find yourself barely able to tread the Really Deep Water--well, then it’s very different. That’s when the seeming lack of response to our desperate pleas and obvious crisis feels intolerable.

'Sure, You’re the God Who hears, Lord. That’s the tagline, anyway. OK, so I’m a bit thick, slow on the uptake. But, I know my eyes and ears are wide open, and what am I getting from You? Nada.

Hello! Are You on hiatus or something?'

This is the kind of vortex I can easily find myself swirling in when I keep my focus on the ‘horizontal plane.’ I know that engaging in the Real Stuff requires ‘going vertical’- lifting my face and my focus to the One on Whom I have set my hope (II Cor. 1:10).

But popping in and out of my own personal viewfinder, with unanticipated frequency lately, is my floundering firstborn—the subject of much petition, and the origin of muted angst. If God is really at work here, you couldn’t prove it by me.

If anything, this one who is much prayed for seems even harder than he was before. I mean, there’s not even a dent. If I’m looking for any shred of encouragement, it’s not here. Not yet.

'OK, I’ll just ‘go on faith’, Lord, that You’re really there, You really care, while I wait, You work—all the usual platitudes. Head down, hands clasped, assuming the position of spiritual communication. Could You maybe spare just a minor clue that You’re actually engaged here?'

But—will I ever learn?—once more I’m focusing on the wrong target. I’ve known from the beginning that any transformation in this prodigal is going to be An Inside Job. As in, starting on the inside, in the calcified heart—long before any evidence appears on the outside. No easy trick, that. In fact, I have it on good authority that such battles are fiercely joined, with vast reverberations in the spiritual realm, unseen.

In the meantime, nowhere is it written that my inability to perceive a divine response relieves me of my calling to pray. Persist in prayer, and don’t confuse it with a cakewalk.

It’s hard because it matters. At least, that’s my current guess.

I try to take myself in hand: can I know for sure the Lord is not still engaged here? How do I determine that? What are my criteria? My own puny understanding and surmising? Hmm, that really DOES sound like I’m stuck in an echo chamber.

A few years back, as I vividly recall, I was driving home after depositing this then-student at school. Unhappily, the few minutes in the car together had been another in a long string of dispiriting exchanges. Gripping the steering wheel, I spoke out loud: “Lord, I need something from You!!”

As clearly as if it had been an audible voice, I heard back, “I see it all, Kathy.”

That was enough. And that hasn’t changed.

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