Have you ever been to a football match, or a market? Somewhere where there are lots of people, where there is a hustle and bustle, the air is busy and full of different sights and sounds?
Have you ever heard the birds singing, loudly and beautifully, the wonderful melody of their chorus that seems to drown out everything else around you?
In recent years I have become more interested in wildlife, trying to identify birds and plant species, enjoying visits to gardens and woodlands, noticing things that I have failed to notice before. I have even started to get excited about programmes like Countryfile and Spring watch, they bring me great pleasure. Chris Packham spoke about the respite and solace that people have found being outdoors during lockdown in gardens, on balconies and during daily exercise, I know for myself this has been true. In nature we hear the whispers of God, that the chaos of our lives can often drown out and I find it really interesting how people of all faiths and none find a peace in nature that the things of the world cannot give to them, I believe that is the voice of God.
On a recent socially distanced garden meet with my Mum, she pointed to a bird and asked me what it was, she said that as a child I had always loved birds and knew what they were. This was a little bit of a surprise to me as I thought my love of birds was quite a new thing. It seems that as I grew up and the busy hectic lives we lead took over, I had lost that connection, I had stopped searching so I could no longer see the beauty around me. Does that sound familiar to you?
As a children’s worker many of you have heard me say that children often teach me so much more than I could ever teach them. In this instance it was the memory of myself as a child that triggered some searching and pondering and threw up a lot of questions!
We read in Genesis 2 how God made Adam and Eve to be in relationship with Him and each other, we know that before the fall they walked in the garden together. God desired to be in relationship with them, yet they turned away from Him. Humans were made in the image of God, yet they turned away from the one who created them. We also know that God wants to make that relationship right, He does not want to be separated from us.
“For God so loved the world that He gave His only Son, so that everyone who believes in Him may have eternal life”
Children are often so open and honest in their faith, indeed in life they see things that we miss and pick up on the small details. I remember taking my son shopping when he was a toddler, he started barking like a dog. I though this was random, but after looking more closely I noticed that there was a small picture of a dog on some packaging, he had spotted it straight away, yet my adult brain had failed to register. Our faith walk can be like this, God is constantly calling us, but things can sound fuzzy and we no longer hear Him, or like Adam and Eve we turn away and hide from Him because we no longer feel worthy.
Now going back to the crowds at the football game or market, have you ever been somewhere busy yet in all the noise you hear a friend or loved one calling your name?
God calls each of us by name, but often because our lives are crowded by noise and stuff and busyness, we are not always able to hear Him, sometimes we may think we hear our name, we briefly pause and glance around, but fail to really see.
Bird watchers learn to identify different birds by sight, they actively search out the different types and go out of the way to find them. Not only do they learn to identify them by sight, but they will often learn the different songs of each species. This then opens a whole new world, instead of just hearing the dawn chorus they can pick out the different songs and tell you what birds there are adding their voice to the wonderful sound. It is much like a conductor who can hear the different instruments of the orchestra when to the untrained ear it is just a beautiful blended sound.
Our faith is very much like that, just as birds sing and the orchestra plays God is always there, calling us, but can we hear Him?
John 10 tells us of Jesus the Good shepherd
“The gatekeeper opens the gate for him, and the sheep hear his voice. He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. When he has brought out all his own, he goes ahead of them and the sheep will follow him because they know his voice”
God wants to be in relationship with us, He wants us to be like the birdwatchers and conductors in our faith, for us to hear His voice loudest and first and to recognise Him in the crowd. This takes time and often means stepping out of our comfort zones, reading our Bibles, praying, sitting in silence, there are so many ways to connect with God. Some days this is easier than others and it is an ongoing journey rather than a destination. He is always calling, but how will we respond?