“I don’t know about the levels and layers of heaven,
but I do know about tenderness
about curves of a baby’s bottom
about the touch of a loved one
about wild geese
and about a God who is here with us
intimate with those whose brokenness
has become an opening for Him to enter.” Omid Safi
In McPherson County, Kansas, on a dry mid-September day, a dirt road is an invitation to explore, to see, to smell, and to experience the “Amber Waves of Grain.” You can stand mesmerized by the drying wheat sheaves moving hither and yon, as if they are able to leave where they are planted and jump across the prairie, like children chasing each other across a field. If you listen carefully, what you will hear is a shimmer, soft and light and joyful.
But if you focus on the spreading weeds lining the road side, the dust kicked up by a vehicle across the acres of stalks, and the roar of a motor passing behind you on the paved county road, you will miss the peace and joy and wonder. And if you analyze the stalks individually, you will miss the shared experience of that undulation. If you enter a church gathering and quietly observe the smiles, the touches, the solitude of a kneeling member, and listen for the sound of a kiss, a Prayer Book opening, laughter and greetings, the patter of little feet running, your focus will be on the actions of the community.
The prophetic voice to me is like that wheat field: full of vibrancy, vacillating, wavering, touching. It has a movement to it. It has a sound to it. It has a feel to it. If I am open to it, I know where it is, when it is, and how it begs me forward. Too often, however, I am not focused and alert for the voices of experience, the voices of justice, the voices of guidance. Sadly, my journey becomes a journey of weed spotting and planting, spreading over good soil, so nothing useful can grow. Instead of looking for the sunlight in my dealings with others, I blow up gilings, which obscure and eventually cover the clean, the fresh, the living. Rather than carefully welcoming the joy and hearing the love, I wait anxiously for the cacophony of triangulation, the din of gossip and falsehoods, and the murmuring of past slights.
Standing on the roadside, listening, searching, perceiving can be a shared undertaking. And partnering with and uplifting another can make the roadside a wonder, if and only if, we have open eyes, open minds, open hearts and open spirits.