My husband, aka "Toady" as in "Wind In the Willows," has just bought a newish car--a sporty white stick-shift Impreza with lots of bells and whistles on it (heated seats!), advanced technology embedded in the steering wheel (What happened to tin cans and red threads?), moon roof, and more. He can sync his Iphone with Pandora so the GPS comes in and the music stills. It boggles the mind. But the most interesting thing about this is a button beneath the radio with these letters on it: PTYCAT.
"Pity cat?" I murmured. "What's that about, honey?"
"Ah," he answered, going too fast around the corner and making thrumming noises in the back of his throat, "that's so you can program your radio to play a certain kind of music. Theoretically I could program it to play only classical music stations."
"Cool," I said, clutching my seat and staring up through the moon roof at the trees flying past. I was beginning to feel a tad queasy. "And then what?"
"Well, the problem is that the stations out here in Western Mass. don't put out any signals yet that identify them as a classical station or a rock station, so the PTYCAT can't pick them up."
"Ah," I said in a pious tone, brain furiously beginning to think. This had to feed into a faith blog.
So here's the analogy, and please bear with me as an ex-English major and fervent, liberal Christian. I think God is constantly sending out messages, signals, to us in a language each of us is particularly attuned to. It could be through nature, friends, loving family, starlight, music, whatever most touches your heart.
How often have you talked to friends and had one say, "I just had this hunch, almost as if someone were talking to me--don't go down that road, don't cross that bridge now, or this is not the person for you."
I have been blessed to be the recipient of many God messages over the years, I'm not quite sure why. Maybe because I pray a lot, read Scripture, and belong to a faith community, and that helps keep my heart "tuned" to God so she can get through to me. Maybe it's sheer good luck, mercy, and grace.
I remember my dear older brother telling me years ago about an experience he had when he was up in New Hampshire for our cousin's wedding. It was a hot day, and he had dunked under a cold waterfall to cool off, and was standing on the bank when he saw a ball of luminous silver light. This message came straight into his mind; You are as bright and shining, Nick, as the day you were born.
Somehow the message got through; maybe my brother's heart was softened for some reason, or maybe the logical mind was on a coffee break, stunned by the beauty of the wild river. Whatever the reason, those words affirmed for him something crucial--a sense of worthiness, of acceptance. I would also add "love."
I have another friend, an older woman who recently lost her husband of over 60 years. You can imagine how difficult it is to craft a life after the loss of someone you've spent your entire adult life with. She is not a person of faith, more an Enlightenment kind of gal. But one night, listening to a favorite piece of classical music, she definitely sensed her husband's presence in the room, a warm embrace. She called in tears to tell me this.
Now I know our faith does not depend upon God coming down from above, white robes flapping, to deliver words of hope and deliverance. But I do believe that if we "tune" our hearts with prayer, meditation, compassion, reading Scripture, and belonging to some kind of faith community, we may well hear God more often than we thought possible. Or not. It's also possible for someone's heart to be open at the right time so the words and the knowing come in.
PTYCAT may not have arrived yet in our part of the world, but God is always attuned to our hearts from the moment we draw our first breath, always there, always trying to get through to us. Our job is just to stay tuned in.