By Sean Garner
I was thinking about big expansive places the other day. Those places (whether deep, broad or wide) only God can design; architects imitate, electric toys mimic and even cheap dollar store microphones give a joyful attempt…but they can’t quite match. Those places, whether deep in the ground or out in the open, are the place where echoes thrive.
The amazing thing about echoes is their ability to entertain us for long stretches of time. Those of us who’ve had the experience can become utterly fascinated for hours by simple cries into the darkness.
Think about it.
Even if you’ve never had the experience yourself, it’s a typical archetype: someone standing in a cave, or among the hills or near some cavernous expanse and yelling “Hello” which morphs over space and time into “Hello… ello… low… low… low…,” slowing winding down to reveal a completely different expression.
So, let’s get spiritual: in the simplest of terms (I mean really basic, don’t-go-too-deep terms), 1 Corinthians 2:14 says that spiritual truths are really only discerned by those who, in essence, have their spiritual radar ready to receive them. We assume, of course, because we’re reading this amazing blog, our antenna are up and always ready to receive. But what if our attention span, not our antenna, is the problem?
Some of us miss transformation in our ministry (or, in our careers and in our personal lives) because we never yell into the cavern. We like safe and quiet places where risk is low, the grass is soft and the sky expands ever before us. The rest of us, who thunderously shout into the dark places love to see what God does with our minuscule efforts, then we walk away victorious. But what if we’re not waiting long enough, not listening close enough, not sitting humbly enough to hear the echo in return?
Waiting for the echo is the most important part! Why yell into a cavern, across the valley or among the mountains if not to hear their reply? If we speak too soon our words simply garble on top of one another, great thoughts will wind themselves up among the crowded wall of noise and even the most perfect echo gets lost among the overgrown forest of words.
So in the hours, days and weeks that follow an impactful event (it’s okay, we don’t mind, call it a spiritual high) like the 30 Hour Famine or your most recent retreat or a great summer mission trip, have you listened to how the Holy Spirit has made the message change into something new?
The problem with any rally call for a cause or a movement is that if we simply repeat the same message over and over again, it loses its impact. But… God has perfectly designed the world so that—given the space and time—he can transform it into something beautiful.
These echoes are so much shorter in length than all the work you put into the 30 Hour Famine! But when we let them ring, they pull teens, leaders and communities into the beginning of a lifetime commitment for change that we couldn’t stop even if we tried that feeds itself with each repetition. They become words that THEY own, rather than words that we give them.
Maybe the words that were poured out at this year’s Famine are changing to a smaller concept that pours out of the conversations your group is having with one another, repeating itself over and over this spring and summer… Grace? Compassion? Humility? Justice? Patience? Passion? Purpose? What is the conversation that comes AFTER a big event that may be the echo that you’re looking for.
Look for the content that is bouncing among the heart of your group—a simple, slow word that repeats over and over again. After the event is done, this could have them sitting on the hillside listening to the call of God for a very long time.
Are you patient enough in your ministry to perceive it?
“Let those who have ears hear.” Luke 8:8