“Can you really love something if you don’t let it change?” The sign was referring to the Alaskan Way viaduct and I think, to Seattle itself. The people around me nodded their heads. One person said, “Isn’t that the truth?”
Another responded, “Amen!” Some people just sighed.
We all knew the sign could have read, “Can you really love someone if you don’t let them change?”
God is still speaking—everywhere—and practically all the time. A regular chatterbox! If we pay attention, we will hear Spirit in the most unlikely places.
Many years ago, I was between jobs so I decided to attend community college full time. I enrolled in all the classes I’d always dreamed of taking.
French 101 was like jumping into an unheated swimming pool. I gasped and sputtered with shock. Nothing was familiar. I couldn’t read the words, let alone pronounce them. Throughout the class the professor would put a hand behind his ear and say, “Ecoutez!” Listen. Attention! Pay attention.
Oddly, I would hear his voice (or was it his voice?) in my head at different times during the day—while talking with a friend, while having an argument, while hearing the wind whisper through the trees. Ecoutez! And I found myself listening the same way I did in class: wondering what can I learn from this? Attention!
If French was a cold pool, Drama was a bubbling hot tub. I was comfortable and hungrily gobbled up everything my professor said. “Nothing is random, everything is intentional,” she said, meaning that in a play, every word, gesture, action and prop had meaning. Spirit nudged me. Could this be true of my life? Looking back it did seem as if everything, even difficult things, lead to a place I would not have otherwise gone.
Then there was Drawing. The first day my professor intoned: “Get the big picture first. What are the major shapes? What is your perspective? Check your proportions.”
His words went straight to my heart. How many times had I failed to see the larger context? Or looked at situations from only my perspective and then later dared to see it from another side and found myself suddenly understanding? And as for proportions—I could be the Picasso of reality perception. We learned about lights and shadows. “Without shadows, your picture has no depth, no dimension.”
I knew he was talking to me. Or was God speaking through him? Nothing is random. Like most people, I wanted to avoid life’s shadows. But he was right: without them life was flat and superficial—a cartoon drawing versus a Rembrandt.
It was our study of “negative space, ” the space between objects that set me to hours of pondering. He gently chided us: “Don’t focus so much on the object. Without negative space, your picture is just a cluttered mess. And don’t forget that half of drawing is standing and looking—not making marks on the paper. How else can you see what is needed?”
But if I wasn’t making marks on the paper I felt lazy and irresponsible—the same way I felt watching the clouds or drinking a cup tea. Guilty and unproductive! But perhaps I needed to make “negative space”—time between activities, so I could stand back, look at my life and see what was needed.
Singing class brought more insights. “Stay in your body and sing what you’re feeling!” my teacher bellowed. “Breathe from your back!” We breathed. We huffed. We puffed. We gave each other shoulder massages. We pretended to yawn to lift our soft palates in order to hit the high notes. We sang with our tongues hanging out.
After a while I started to get more comfortable with the high notes—they just sounded bad. “Your problem is that you hit every note with such force,” my professor said punching her fist into the air.
I blinked. “That’s how I do everything,” I thought.
She continued, “You need to learn to sing the note gracefully—you don’t need all that force.” Spirit poked me—again. Could this possibly apply to the rest of my life? Stand back and look.
I went to learn about theatre, art, singing and French. But I came away knowing about listening and looking, lights and shadows, force and grace.
Yes, God is still speaking. What have you heard lately?