She Said, “How Do You Know When You Are Hearing From God?”

Photograph: Tsuneaki Hiramatsu
The beautiful flightpaths of fireflies

She said, “How do you know when you are hearing from God?”
I didn’t know how to explain
It is to explain the butter grit of
  cornbread to a mouth that just
  discovered it has a tongue
The sound of jazz to ears that only ever
   thought they’d be lobes of flesh
The sight of sunsets to blinded eyes
   that in an instant can see
To fail at the ability to give words to
   how the scent of baked bread can
   make the mind recall a memory
Every detail
Of a house, a room, a kitchen, a
Like explaining to a newborn baby this
   is what it feels like to be held
My words never felt so small, so
   useless, so incapable

I wanted to say
Put your hand in the middle of your chest
Feel the rhythm there
I wanted to say you will find the holy
  text in so many places
On crinkly pages of scripture
In dusty hymnals
In the creases of a grandmother’s smile
The way she clasps her hands
The way she prays familiar, with
 reverence as if to a dignitary and friend
The way she sings a simple song from
  her spirit and porches turn to cathedrals

I learned from my great-grandmother
   how to pray
How to talk to God
How to listen
Watching her and the other silver-
   haired church mothers gather in her
   living room
Worn wrinkled hands on top of leather
   bibles well traveled

They prayed living room prayers
   because you don’t have to be inside
   the four walls of a church to cry out to
   the God who made you
Because no matter where you sing or
   scream or whisper God’s ears can
   hear you

And despite what the laws say or what
   our human flaws say
God’s ears don’t play favourites
God’s ears don’t assess bank accounts
   or social status before they attune
   themselves to the story your tears or
   your fears are telling

God’s ears are here for the babies
For the immigrant, for the refugee
For the depressed, for the lonely
For the dreamers
The widow, the orphan
The oppressed and the helpless

Those about to make a mess or caught
   in the middle of cleaning one up
Dirt don’t scare God’s ears
God is a gardener
God knows things can’t grow without
   sun, rain and soil

I want to tell her to hear God
You have to be willing to experience
   what’s holy in places many people
   don’t deem to be sacred
That sometimes God sits next to you
   on a barstool
Spilling truth to you like too many beers
That God knows very well the dance
   we’ll do
When we love ourselves so little that
    just about anyone will do

That God cares about the moments we
   find ourselves
On the edge of a cliff
On the edge of sanity
On the edge of society
Even when we have less than an inch
   left of the thread that’s been holding
   us together

I want to tell her God is always waiting
Lingering after the doors close
And the phone doesn’t ring
And we are finally alone
God is always saying
I love you
I am here
Don’t go, stay

I try to explain how God is pleading with us
To trust
To love
To listen
That God’s voice is melody and bass
   lines and whisper and thunder and

Sometimes when I pray, I think of her
How the voice of God was lingering in
   her very question
How so many of us just like her
Just like me
Just like you
Are still searching
Still questioning, still doubting
I know I don’t have all the answers
I know I never will
That sometimes the best thing we can
   do is put our hands in the middle of
   our chest
Feel the rhythm there
Turn down the noise in our minds, in
   our lives
And whisper,
Whatever you want to say
I’m here
I’m listening

– Amena Brown

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