Open Your Ears

C. S. Lewis said that mythology had hidden “good lies” that point towards the truth of Jesus. He found the biblical themes in ancient cultures as evidence that God is always reaching out to tell humanity about his character. I love finding those kinds of connections in a Snow Patrol song or a Disney movie too. I’m known to be a weird dude, but stick with me, because this post is bound to get exciting – and not just because of the blood and pus. (For the queasy, there’s not much blood and pus, and I didn’t take pictures or video despite the opportunity.)

Back when I was in high school, “Chasing Cars” by Snow Patrol was the existential beauty of my angsty nights. This season, a different song from that album has been on repeat in my home, and the lyrics are still meaningful to me. However, as I sing along, “I want so much to open your eyes because I need you to look into mine,” my heart’s real desire is distracted by the more pressing need for my ears to be opened. Literally. Maybe also spiritually, but I have an ear infection.

“Can’t I catch a break?” I screamed at God in the middle of the night Wednesday as I couldn’t sleep for the third night in a row due to incredible pain radiating from my right ear. I screamed some other things too. Very few expletives, for those of you wondering. In fact, it was more guttural as I struggled to form coherent thoughts because of the combination of sleep deprivation and pain. As I sat at my kitchen table with my coloring books distracting myself from my inability to sleep or think, I tried to present my requests to God with joy. It was a struggle. For real. I almost cried one night. A handful of people knew I wasn’t sleeping because of the pain, and when one text came through in the middle of the night asking how I was doing, I replied, “My ear hurts.” The sassy response gave me a chuckle as I read, “Is it because someone isn’t listening to God? Or maybe because you have an earache.”

I’m not here to overspiritualize an ear infection. I bought a fancy device that looks in my ear and safely pulls out the blockages and buildup. I’ve used it several times to empty my swollen ear canal of pink pus that’s tainted with blood. The cool app connected to the device lets me take video or pictures of the inside of my ear, but I refrained despite the assurances from students that the internet loves that stuff. Miraculously, I slept through the night Friday night, but I still woke up with my ear sore, and I made my way with a hot cup of coffee to my picnic table, bundled up in a blanket to fight the freezing cold still persisting into the first day of spring. Lauren showed up a few minutes later.

We had an incredible conversation about not overspiritualizing ear infections but about listening to God when we have them. Lauren has heard God say some crazy stuff too, and we’ve both turned to the Lord to listen and to obey and to study the Scriptures and to walk in truth. We kinda look like weirdos sometimes (probably me more than her, but she’s stood by me in solidarity through a lot), and some have even called me the village crazy lady.

In fact, a student even emphatically declared that as we watched Moana in class this week. I’ve had the connection made before when the Grandma encourages Moana to listen to the call of the ocean and do a brave and dangerous thing to save her people. The Grandma laughs as she assigns the title to herself because she’s confident in who she is. I do the same. As Moe and I finished reading Greg Coles’s fabulous book yesterday, I resonated so strongly with his chapter about our inability to please people. He’s too progressive for the conservatives, too conservative for the progressives. I’ve upset lots of people for similar inability to fall neatly into a theological camp.

My eyes are on Jesus, however, and my ears are listening to what instructions he gives me. Like Moana, I don’t know why God chose me for a specific task I don’t look up to (technically the ocean called her, but follow my analogy), but also like Moana, I seem to be gifted in seeing people underneath their lava crust and knowing who they were created to be.

Spoilers ahead.

Moana knows that when Maui stole the heart of Te Fiti he awoke Te Kā. What she doesn’t realize until she makes it to where she plans to restore the heart is that Te Kā is Te Fiti without her heart. At the start of this clip, Maui is trying to help Moana the best way he knows – summoning his courage in a Maori war dance, a haka. He stole the heart long ago, and now he’s trying to use violence to clean up his messes. Once Moana realizes the truth that Te Kā is a traumatized and damaged Te Fiti, she uses a completely different tactic: vulnerability and love.

Before Moana restores the heart, she gives Te Kā a hongi – a Maori symbol that shows vulnerability as heads are extended to each other and then the two people inhale the same air showing solidarity and unity with one another. Moana does this again with the restored Te Fiti, but I find it most significant that Moana meets the other in her brokenness. When she says, “This is not who you are,” Moana is not excusing the hurt Te Kā tried to wreak, but she’s also calling her to let herself be transformed back into what she was made to be.

When I’m in my brokenness, I too come across as a nasty lava monster, and it takes Jesus telling me, “I know your name… this is not who you are,” and restoring my soul to transform me back into the life giving, creative goddess I was made to be. You see, in the scene following this clip, Te Fiti gives gifts to both Maui and Moana – the one who first hurt her and the one who finally restored her.

Over the past several months, I’ve been learning and sharing my lessons from an encounter I had with a lava monster. I didn’t see the person at first; I got burned very, very badly, and like Maui initially in the movie, I didn’t react well. Now I know this is not who they are – there is a life giving goddess waiting to be transformed when the other is willing to have their heart restored and be healed. I’m incredibly grateful for those in my life who saw my poor reactions and, as the voice of Jesus in my life, told me that’s not who I am made to be, encouraged me to speak more kindly of others, and some of whom even modeled forgiveness in a way I could follow.

I processed a lot of this with Shannon last night, and she reiterated that I can’t change any lava monsters. Those people running around on fire and burning people need to want to stop hurting themselves and spreading hurt to others. I can allow myself to stop burning people, though, and that’s what I hope to do. Next time I encounter a lava monster, I don’t want to inflict hurt in response – I want to speak the truth in love and see them transformed by Jesus. I’m ready with my eyes open and on Jesus.

Oh, and my ears too. If you don’t mind taking a moment to pray for an ear infection to clear up so I can hear all the beauty of Snow Patrol and Moana. Or to hear the Lord. Both would be good.

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