Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Anybody Listening?

"Nobody ever listens to my pages!" said the girl at the Barnes & Noble checkout counter nearly five minutes after she called over the speaker system for a manager to help her figure out the glitch that was preventing her from processing my payment. She was obviously irritated, but continued to smile in a self depricating manner, as if to say "Oh well! What are you gonna do?!"

I could feel her pain. There are times when I feel like nobody ever listens to my pages either, and there's nothing more frustrating than being pushed to the back burner, or - even worse - never making it to the stove. Most of us are in need of some type of attention... Any attention! Like an American Idol contestant standing insecurely before the judges, we desperately long for positive feedback, or at least contructive criticism.

So what do we do when there's nothing? What happens when we've sung our song, poured our heart and soul into every detail of it, and there is no applause, no Randy/Paula/Simon praise or criticism? What then?

Perhaps we do as the girl at Barnes & Noble did. Maybe we lament the fact that nobody's coming to bail us out, but we don't let it ruin our day. Could it be that we sing the song not for the audience applause, but for the art and the beauty of the thing?

I read a portion of a book today that asked the question, "What if you had just thirty days to live?" Great question. Would we spend our time nervously waiting on the audience's response, or would we re-imagine what matters and fight like hell to sing the song we're supposed to be singing? Howard Thurman said it best with these words: "Don't ask what the world needs. Ask what makes you come alive, and go do it. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive."

The next time no one's listening, ask yourself if you're doing what makes you come alive. If you are, it doesn't matter who's listening, you will be heard. If you're not, find a song you love, and sing it like nobody's business!!


Will Stranathan said...

I hear your pages!

And rather than imagine if we had just thirty days to live, why don't we think about living like we're going to live forever. What's the worst that could happen? They can only kill the body.

Steve Hayes said...

Will Stranathan!! Good to hear from you, man!

I think the focus on living forever is proper. I also think taking time to think about and make the best of our time in the here and now is appropriate. Sure, we will live forever, and it's awesome to think with that perspective, but we also have a finite time here on earth to impact and influence, and that's also an important focus. One brings us great assurance and hope, and the other brings us great urgency and impact. I think God is pleased with all of those things!!

Anonymous said...

It's Sunday morning & I'm sitting in my office while our Bible study classes are in session, so I'm surfing (which I never do on Sunday morning) & read your blog. We've never met & It's the first time I've read it. I like what you said about finding what makes you come alive and do it... find a song you love and sing it like nobody's business. I'd love to do that, but I'm such a rule follower and was always taught to put my pleasures ahead of other people's needs (and pehaps expectations). There are some things I'd love to do again like I did when I was in my 20's. Since I got married, raised my children, worked in church all my life and now have my first grandchild, I find I want to do what makes me laugh and enjoy life more, but can't seem to let go. It's like what one writer wrote, "When I relax I feel guilty". DJ

Steve Hayes said...


Thanks for responding. I'm certain that the older you get, the more difficult it becomes to have fun and let go of all the constraints. I've been married now for 11 years, and I have four children. It's definitely harder to sing my song now than it was when I was young, stupid and single!

Here's where I am: I'm now closer to 40 than 30, and I'm wondering if my life really counts for anything? I don't want to live with regret, so I'm asking a lot of questions. There are no easy answers to these questions, but they must be asked. I'm not willing to look back and know that I never sang my song.

DJ, I'm going to be honest. You sound like a lion who's been caged for some time now and has forgotten how to roar. All I can say is that you've got to find a way to roar or you'll die regretting your life.

I'm trying to get in shape, and a trainer friend of mine told me that the best place to start is by doing something more today than I did yesterday. If that means I park a long way from the door at Wal Mart so that I have to walk further than normal, or if that means that I run three miles, the point is that I need to start by doing more today than I did yesterday.

I'd say the same thing applies here. Do more today to laugh and enjoy life than you did yesterday. Whether that means that you take a second to get some coffee and enjoy the paper on your way to work, or whether it means that you take the afternoon off and go to a movie, just do something more than you did yesterday.

Here's the thing: It's all vanity anyway (see Ecclesiates), so find a way to enjoy it! God wants us to delight in Him, not bow to the expectations of others!

I'm not trying to fix you, man. Just trying to help. I'd love to meet you sometime. Where do you serve?