Our friend Yogi Berra strikes again. Yogi said: “You can see a lot by looking.”
The New York Yankees catcher had a real quirky way with words, didn’t he? At first, many of the things he said seem like nonsense, but when you stop and think about them, they make a lot of sense.
I have learned from Yogi, so I look.
I was in a moderately nice (i.e., a bit fancy and expensive) restaurant this past week. Soon after I sat down, the hostess seated two couples at the table next to mine. They looked over the menus and placed their orders.
As they waited for their drinks and appetizers, each of them took out a cellphone and talked to someone else. They were together at the table — two couples, four friends — but instead of talking with each other face to face, they talked with four other people who weren’t even there.
What a shame. They had the opportunity to really be with each other and enjoy each other’s company, but they let it slip away.
I know I am not supposed to judge, and I realize that I don’t know all that was going on in their lives that led them to act as they did, but it was hard not to think that they were missing a lot.
As I looked, I thought about how we — myself included — communicate with God. Do we really talk with God, or do we spend our time on metaphorical cellphones talking to other people? If we do the latter, we miss a real opportunity just like the two couples in the restaurant.
Conversing effectively with other people has some set parameters if we want to have real communication and not just idle chatter. To really communicate with another person, we have to be aware, speak and listen.
First, we have to know that the other person is there, and we have to remember it through the entire conversation. That would seem to be obvious, but I would bet that each of us has found our mind wandering in the middle of speaking with someone. When this happens, we’re not really aware of the other person, so we can’t possibly be listening, either.
The second requirement for communication is speaking. Speaking isn’t just saying words but saying something real. There are few things in life more frustrating than a spouse or colleague who won’t talk with you. It is impossible to really communicate unless both parties actually talk.
Finally, of course, there is listening. Unless we really listen and pay attention to what the other person is saying, why they are saying it and what it really means, we will not be able to respond in a way that will add to the communication.
Communicating with God is no different — except, of course, God is God. It is not a frivolous thing but something done out of love and reverence. We call it prayer.
Whatever form we use to pray, we still need to be fully aware of God’s presence, to speak and verbalize our thanks and concerns and desires and to really listen. If we never stop to listen, we will be like people who speak at us without ever listening. That is not how loving people communicate.
If we will see, speak and listen, our relationship with God will deepen and grow, and we will begin to understand what is meant about bringing Heaven to Earth.
Benjamin G. Davis, formerly the executive director of the Religious Coalition in Frederick, is currently a professor of theology and economics.