“Listen, listen, God is calling, through the Word inviting, offering forgiveness, comfort, and joy.” - Refrain from “Listen, God is Calling,” traditional Tanzania song, English Trans. © 1987 Lutheran Theological College, Makumira (admin. Augsburg Fortress).
We were hiking the Navajo Loop Trail in Bryce Canyon National Park, Utah when this song peacefully arrived in my brain. The timing was perfect as I was agitated. Here’s the expanded setting.
My husband Tom and I arrived at the Bryce Canyon Amphitheater on a cool but sunny fall day. It isn’t an amphitheater in the musical or performance sense. It is a massive canyon full of hoodoos - rocky spires in shapes that appear humanlike, animal-like, and in many other forms your imagination conjures. The hoodoos are massive colorful stones that were formed by thousands of years of erosion. It’s spectacular. There is a sense of spirit and God in this place.
But, I wasn’t enjoying it. Several busloads of tourists arrived at the rim as we did and the excited voices of many foreign tourists were inhibiting my tranquility. I was annoyed.
As we hiked deeper into the canyon many of the voices faded, but compared to most of our hikes, this was indeed a crowded trail. I wanted to soak in the spirituality of the place but felt as if my private thoughts and the tranquility of the space were being invaded by outside forces. Just a few short weeks ago I experienced a spiritual connectedness with my deceased mother in Badlands National Park and I yearned to return to the sense of peace and love that I experienced there.
“Dang tourists!” I thought. “How can I enjoy the sacred, spiritual retreat of Bryce – like the ancient peoples 8,000 years ago, Paiute Indians and early settlers did – when all I hear is human chatter!”
But then, the song’s refrain started playing in my head, “Listen, listen, God is calling.” I’m familiar with the song and tune as we often sing it during our worship service at Saint Paul’s Lutheran Church in the Old Village of Mount Pleasant.
“Aagh. I can’t listen with all this noise,” I thought. But over and over, it played in my head until I began to voice it and to finally realize that God was calling and I wasn’t listening because it wasn’t what I wanted to hear.
How often do I only hear what I want to hear? What about you? What are you listening for? And what are you really hearing?
I went into the Bryce Amphitheater wanting to experience it my way. After I put away my attitude and expectations, I experienced it the way it was. Of course there were other tourists. They were there just like me to experience Bryce in their own way. I finally started to listen as the song suggests. I began to offer prayers of thankfulness to the generations of forward-thinking men and women who preserved Bryce and many other parks and lands in this country and around the world for all of humanity to enjoy.
For days later, the song stayed with me, reminding me to listen more, expect less, and to be open to what actually is being said– especially in work, family and worship.
Do you go into meetings or family discussions with the same attitude I took into Bryce - wanting to get your ideas across instead of listening to the ideas of others? Do you hear what is not being said? Do you actually listen to the real message that is being delivered? Do you listen deeply?
Suzanne Detar’s book -- Don’t Lose the Ball in the Lights and Other Life Lessons from Sports -- is available for purchase at Island Expressions, 126 Seven Farms Dr., and online in print and as an ePub at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, Google Play and iBooks. Learn more at www.SuzanneDetar.com.