Two men were walking down 5th Avenue in New York City alongside Central Park, near its Conservatory Garden. The sounds of the city were all around them: taxis, people talking and walking, street vendors, children laughing, car horns, trucks making their deliveries, and all of the other audible trademarks of bustling civilization. Passing by the garden, one of the men smiled and said,
“Did you hear that cricket?”
“What cricket?”, the other said.
“We’re passing by the Conservatory Garden. If you listen closely, you can hear them. I just heard another one.”
The other man looked at him in amazement. “How can you hear that? I can’t hear a thing!”
The man reached into his pocket and produced a handful of pennies and nickels. “Watch,” he said. The man dropped the change to the ground, and immediately a the small group who had been walking by them stopped and started looking at the ground.
As they started walking again the man looked at the other and said, “You hear what you listen for.”
This story spoke to me on many levels because it reminded me of the kind of voices and sounds we listen to in our daily lives. Advertising tells us we aren’t happy UNLESS we buy this one product, Instagram tells us our life isn’t exciting enough, and Pinterest reminds us how uncreative many of us are. Magazines tell girls they aren’t skinny enough, movies tell guys they aren’t buff enough, and your Facebook news feed says you’re not married enough. The world is constantly telling us we aren’t enough of something.
Something I have been struggling with lately is what to truly listen to. This isn’t a debate about listening to One Direction over The Jonas Brothers, but more about the voices that speak into my life. There have been voices in my past that I let hang around longer than I should have, or voices that I ignored when that was the worst thing I could have done at the time. We all have voices that speak to us, whether they are the voices of people in your life, or the voices that circumstances/hardships will use to prey on you at your weakest moments.
“You should give up now. You know you won’t be able to this.”
“No one will love you if you do that, and no one will love you because of that.”
“You’re too stupid.”
“Everyone will think you’ve settled if you don’t make X amount of money.”
“You’re too ugly.”
“That dream isn’t worth pursuing.”
The list goes on and on.
The thing we always need to remember is that for every negative voice we hear, there are positive ones that will encourage, challenge, and love us. The problem is that we get so used to the negative ones we don’t hear the positives. In the story above, imagine the man who heard the crickets was an entomologist by trade, an expert in insects and crickets. His ability to pick out the sounds makes sense doesn’t it? Why? Because he was immersed in those sounds every day. We should strive to do the same in our lives.
Someone said to me once that the reason we often don’t hear God speak to us is because we simply aren’t listening. “The hearing problem is not God’s, it’s us. He’s always speaking. He’s speaking every hour of every day. The problem is we don’t listen.” If we listen to the voice of God, what are some of the things he’s saying to us?
- We’re set apart and chosen – 1st Peter 2:9
- We’re created for a purpose – Ephesians 2:10
- We’re forgiven – Colossians 2:13-14
- We’re loved – 1st John 3:1
The ironic thing about this world that we live in is that perfection is something that is impossible, yet we expect it from other people and over time, we are trained to expected from ourselves. We are never going to perfect, because this world has never been. Thankfully we have a perfect Savior who has already done more than we can ever imagine or ask, and that Savior will speak love to you if you just stop and listen.
That’s the voice we need to use to frame our priorities, desires, self-image, and love for others by.
The voices of the world will all eventually say, “Not good enough.”
The voice of God is always saying, “I’m good enough so you don’t have to be.”