Back in the old days, before the internet and the media, there was time to sit and watch the sunset on the porch swing. There was time to notice the budding of new flowers and the coming of spring. You could almost predict the weather because you knew the sky. Nothing slipped past your gaze. Not the clouds, the rainbows or the moon’s progression in the sky. You noticed the changing color of the leaves and took pleasure in the falling snowflakes as they spread the sparkling blanket across the ground. Back then, you looked up at the velvet blackness of the sky, splattered with trillions of stars, and stood breathless at the greatness of the universe.
You heard the twitter of birds and the chirp of crickets. You listened to the rain on the roof and heard the whisper of the breeze in the pines. You even listened to the stillness that was so quiet it hurt your ears.
Nowadays, with compelling apps and games on our smartphones demanding our attention, we are plagued with self-imposed blindness and deafness. We do not notice the miracles of nature all around us. We don’t see the magnificent manifestations of God’s love hidden everywhere in nature. I think that was what Jesus meant when he said:
Therefore speak I to them in parables: because they seeing see not; and hearing they hear not, neither do they understand.
And in them is fulfilled the prophecy of Esaias, which saith, By hearing ye shall hear, and shall not understand; and seeing ye shall see, and shall not perceive:
For this people's heart is waxed gross, and their ears are dull of hearing, and their eyes they have closed; lest at any time they should see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and should understand with their heart, and should be converted, and I should heal them.
But blessed are your eyes, for they see: and your ears, for they hear.
—Matthew 13:13-16 KJV
I wonder how much of life we are missing when our eyes are tuned into the internet and our ears are tuned to hear nothing but the ding of our smartphones. How many miracles, teaching and learning moments do we miss, and how many whispers from the Holy Spirit go unheeded?
Jesus said He taught in parables because people didn’t see or hear, and they could not understand. Jesus wanted his followers to intensely want what He taught. Parables beg us to ask questions. If we really want to know the meaning, we will ask, and He will bless us with the answers. Parables are perfect instruments for that kind of education. The meaning is hidden in a simple story and a person must take the time to sort it out to understand the significance.
Jesus teaches the same way today. Miracles and lessons in our lives are hidden unless we take time to think about our experiences and ask the questions, “What am I supposed to learn from this experience? Are there hidden messages in nature? What can I learn from listening during my prayers?” We often find it difficult to pray and ponder on the treadmill of life. That is why Jesus said to pray in your closet instead of in the streets where others could hear. The Father will hear and reward us openly. Jesus was using the word "closet" as a metaphor for private places. Public prayers can be private if you are seeking to communicate with God and not trying to impress the listeners.
Long ago, when I took time to ponder and meditate on my life, someone told me that I should pray for spiritual experiences. The Lord would bless me with what I asked for. One morning, I thought I’d just try out the advice. At the time, I was in good shape. I could run/walk about 8 miles and did it nearly every day.
One morning, I prayed fervently and, with faith, asked for a spiritual experience. I was a little disappointed when the morning passed and I still had not received my answer. I went for my walk and still nothing.
As I walked, I noticed off in the distance something black flapping in the wind. As I got closer, I could see that it was a crow dangling from a tree. It was still alive. I instantly grew angry at the person who had tied him there, but as I got closer, I realized that the crow’s curiosity had gotten him into the situation. A plastic six-pack holder had ensnared the curious bird. He was hopelessly caught.
I know it is not wise to touch wild animals, but I just could not leave him there. I reached out, and to my amazement, he didn’t flail or try to peck me. He settled under my touch. He must have felt that I was there to help. I was able to untangle him. I set him on my arm, and he sat there for a few moments, not trusting his freedom. Then, he spread his wings and lifted into the sky.
Tears stung my eyes as I envied his freedom. I wished I could fly like that. As if in answer to my longing, the thought came into my mind, “You are free. You can fly spiritually because Jesus set you free. He died on the cross to pay for your sins.” There was my spiritual experience. The Lord answered my prayer in a magnificent way. He gave me a parable of my very own that I could feel and understand.
Nature is full of parables. Think of the seed growing into a plant. It grows and gives fruit, then it dies over the winter and is resurrected in the spring. How like the resurrection we all wait for and the hope we have to see our loved ones who have passed on. Will they not wake on resurrection morning just like the plant that seems dead but blooms again?
Think of the snowflakes, each one unique and beautiful; how they gather with other snowflakes to make a beautiful blanket of silver covering the Earth. How like the Kingdom of God and all true believers in Christ. Each one of God’s children is unique, but they come together in unity with their exceptional talents to make something beautiful and bless the world with His love.
Think of rolling rivers constantly flowing to the sea. Are they not like the righteous, running daily to the fountain of God’s love through prayer? Think of the ground being watered and foliage being renewed by the service of the streams. Ponder the living water of Christ. Does not Jesus cause healing and growth to all He touches?
What about the pattern of night and day? The sun and the moon? Are we not like the moon, a reflection of God’s light? What about the light of the sun? We see so much better when we have light. The brighter the light, the more we see. Light can chase away the darkness. Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth and the life” (John 14:6 KJV). He exhorted us to let our light shine. In so doing, we shine with His light.
Parables and manifestations of God’s love are all around us, but we cannot be heavy-eyed and deaf. We must desire to know. We must ask. It cannot be just a passive prayer or a grocery list of "I-wants." It must be a searching, questioning prayer with a heart turned to His will. We must shut off our cell phones and other devices, find the closets in our lives, and take time to listen when we ask. He is manifesting the secrets of the universe to those who are willing to listen.
Sometimes, He will answer in our mind at that very moment. Sometimes, His answers come later in the day. Sometimes, we wait years to understand what He is trying to say to us. He is there, and He listens to every heartfelt prayer. I’m sure He gets tired of the jangle of vain repetition, but He will give us a parable if we have eyes to see and ears to hear. It will be wonderful, one day, to hear Him say of us, “But blessed are your eyes, for they see: and your ears, for they hear” (Matthew 13:16 KJV).