Hearing Jesus requires renewing your brain. Training your awareness to function differently. Feels odd at first, but soon becomes natural. And according to those who've done it, eventually you can’t imagine living any other way.
It means being conscious on two levels at once: outside, and inside.
It means holding in tension the reality of YOU: body and soul, one person existing simultaneously in two realms, physical and spiritual. You have outside ears, and you have inside ears—both created to hear One Voice.
So how do we do it? How do we listen with both at once, when the outside gets so LOUD sometimes? When the buzz is so deafening and the interruptions so constant and the jerks and jolts so unexpected?
Gaining double awareness is like building a muscle: you get stronger the more you practice. It is possible to live in both realms at once—not just possible, but necessary. Jesus did it. We have Him inside us; we can too.
When I sang in my first (and maybe only) opera, I distinctly remember one moment from our Friday night performance. I played the villain. (It took me months to understand my character, and I was only able to enter her soul when I finally understood the depths of my own depravity—and realized but for the grace of God, there go I.) I stood on stage on Friday night before an audience audibly alive, delivered my climactic lines in shivering tones, and felt with my whole being the deafening hollow of silence left in the room. They held their breath. So did I. And in that moment, I was two people; the “me” I played in the story, who wasn’t me at all, but who I had finally entered into in such a real way that the people in the room believed I was her; and the real me standing on stage, hating the person I had to play but thrilled with the utter success of my entering-in, thrilled with the gasp-less room, conscious of my success as an actress, conscious of the necessity of evil for tragedy’s pathos, aware of my self in an out-of-body sort of way.
In that moment, I was aware of existing on two levels, outside and inside. Two sets of thoughts, two realities, two stories happening simultaneously, both mine, and both me. I went home exhausted from holding the tension. But triumphant. Pondering acting, and the contradiction of being yourself and someone else at the same time—how does one give oneself completely, convincingly, and yet still retain self-hood intact? A topic for another time…
That moment from my opera is a nugget of gold I keep today, and now hold out to you: the flash of double awareness. It is possible to function on two levels at once, to be aware of what is happening physically and what is happening spiritually at the same time. Jesus was. He was so integrated with Himself that he was completely connected to His Father and His world all the time, with no breaks, gaps, pauses, or interruptions.
It’s exhausting at first. My brain feel stretched sideways, pulled perpendicular. But Brother Lawrence says, don’t give up… anytime you lapse, just return in your heart to God’s lap and look up in His face again. Don’t beat yourself up. Don’t waste energy that way. Just return. Look up. Re-tune. Hold Jesus’ voice ringing in your ears while you comfort your child on your lap, while you wash dishes, while you talk on the phone, while you fold laundry or rock a baby or…
It’s a new muscle. It will get easier. And oh the thrill of the promise of longer and longer stretches of uninterrupted connection, the riding of the wave of communion through whatever bumps the day throws—I long for the deep root-down drinking to stay, stay, stay…
Come listen with me. Quietly, deep down aware, in the midst of tumult, chaos, noise, doing four things at once, wishing for more hands, more arms, more strength—more rest. Quietly, deep down roots reaching for awareness of Presence. Emmanuel. God with us.