On a recent drive, somewhere along a lush tree-lined road where wildflowers bloom, I “lost” a big-city classic rock station. As Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers faded away, I channel surfed for other music I’d enjoy.
Wherever I was at the time, nothing tuned in clearly for miles, until I heard Paul Simon singing, “Loves Me like a Rock.” As I drove further, The Archies followed with “Sugar, Sugar.” I couldn’t help singing along.
Then, Don McLean began his haunting, beautiful elegy, “Vincent,” one of my dad’s favorite popular songs. In a moment, I was transported to a time in my childhood when Dad, an artist himself, tried to share some hard-earned wisdom. Often, when he wanted me to pay attention, he would say: “Listen. Your Daddy wants to tell you something.” When I did, I discovered abundant treasures in his insights. Sometimes, they saved me from going down roads of pain and heartache.
I like to imagine that all the biblical prophets and the wayshower, Jesus, wanted to do the same. They hoped to share their profound message of God’s unconditional love, infinite compassion and ever-abiding grace, as well as their worldly experience with the people of their time — and by extension, the rest of us now — just as Vincent Van Gogh attempted to share the beauty and wonder he saw in God’s magnificent world. As some art historians note, Van Gogh believed his first calling was to preach the word of God.
Perhaps this is why McLean’s lyrics tug at our heart strings as much as Van Gogh’s starry night, sunflowers and wheat fields do.
Now I understand, what you tried to say to me
And how you suffered for your sanity
And how you tried to set them free.
They did not listen; they did not know how.
Perhaps they’ll listen . . . now. . . .
For they could not love you, but still, your love was true.
Perhaps some did listen. Though sometimes, we don’t want to listen. Or can’t. Not necessarily because we don’t know how, but because listening takes a lot of faith, patience and spiritual strength. Because sometimes, listening hurts. We don’t want to know what we’re being told. We don’t want to experience our own pain, let alone someone else’s.
If we listen, we believe, we might have to do something. Or worse, we might not be able to do anything. Except be present. To an elder’s wisdom. To a friend’s deep, dark secret. To yet another family story. To an outpouring of emotion we don’t understand. All of it shared in love – even when we can’t listen.
Few people understood Van Gogh’s gift in his lifetime, though now he is one of our most revered artists. Few people understood the wisdom and love Jesus and all the prophets attempted to share, though we still endeavor to live as they advised.
Perhaps, no matter what road we’re traveling now, we’ll stop — and take some time to listen.
© 2016 – Rev. Jennifer L. Sacks. All rights reserved.