I think back on the month of June and see a blur of Nutella and Moana. After being drenched in the graces of ECHO Nola, I came home to begin the daunting task of babysitting my cousin’s three munchkins (aged 6, 4, and 2). Soon enough, the words from the talks at ECHO were being drowned out by Disney. My conversations about God and humanity transformed into fantastical stories about Dinosaur puppies, and my time alone with Jesus started to become overwhelmed with thoughts of the kids, what they needed, and what new games we could play.
But God, being the loving Father that He is, being the perfect Lover, didn’t jealously wait for me to return to Him in the Adoration Chapel but instead found me in the midst of this Nutella – covered summer. I could go on and list thousands of way He did this every day, but instead, I’ll focus on one. He met me in the words of a Moana song.
“Mind what he says but remember
You may hear a voice inside
And if the voice starts to whisper
To follow the farthest star
Moana, that voice inside
Is who you are.”
From a young age, Moana heard the echo in her heart – the voice that told her who she was! She listened to it and desired to follow it wherever it would lead her, but as she grows up, the echo is drowned out. She begins to listen to the voices around her…and not just listen, but takes them into her heart until she believes their story is her story.
Now, there are so many different paths we could take here because Moana is RIPE with hidden, deep lessons, but for the sake of brevity, I want to focus on one – Moana knew how to listen. If we want to do world-changing stuff like Moana and have Lin-Manuel Miranda write the soundtrack to our lives, we first have to be able to listen.
At ECHO, this listening becomes second nature. We’re fed with truth. Then often, we get home and the foxes start showing up in the vineyard again. Missing that community we experienced on retreat, we reach for our phones. Even though we found ourselves freer with a daily routine and healthy schedule, we sink back into laziness (or maybe we spring forward into busyness?). Whatever our weaknesses are, they come back in until that echo becomes just a nice memory.
BUT FEAR NOT! Because this “echo” is not some elusive soundtrack that remains on a low volume deep inside of us that we have to strain to hear. No, this “echo” is the voice of God Himself…it’s Jesus Christ! A living person who drew you to this retreat and will finish the work He started. Fear not.
But what can we do to “help” Him, to make ourselves more open to and aware of the work being done in our hearts? We can begin the work of silencing those foxes. Because here’s the sneaky thing about foxes – They’re beautiful creatures. My parents own a blueberry farm, and one day while I was picking blueberries, I saw a fox. Immediately, everything and everyone else around me became dull in comparison to this vibrant little red fox. So it goes in the vineyard of our hearts. If we want to focus on the words Jesus is trying to speak to us, we have to clear the distractions. And make no mistake – this is work! Just as behind every athlete, there are hours of practice and pain and sacrifice, behind every person sitting peacefully with God, there is work.
And honestly, this is where Moana has the advantage on us. Besides the fact that she’s scripted (and doesn’t exist), she lives on an island where their lives revolve around coconuts! Plenty of time for pondering there. But alas, we have many attractive distractions around us. Why sit in silence when there are so many Jimmy Fallon videos to watch online? Who has time for contemplation when we’re still contemplating which series to watch (or re-watch) on Netflix? And when I’ve finally sucked those two sources of entertainment dry for the day, there’s still the realization that there are still so many people on social media whom I haven’t stalked…so many feeds to scroll through. Really, entertaining ourselves has become a full-time job. It’s become an addiction.
I know this line is getting over-said and probably leads to many eye-rolls, but when it comes to blocking out the echo in our lives, is there any threat more prevalent than this one? Does anything steal more of our time? And if you’re one of the lucky ones who doesn’t struggle with this, thank God, then ask Him to name the fox in your life He wants you to start catching.
But here’s the good news – whatever the fox is, whatever God is asking us to give up for Him, we never leave empty. We can trust that we will receive more than we give…and the more we give, the more we receive. We can start small and trust that Jesus loves and multiplies out efforts.
This summer, I got the idea from one of Matt Fradd’s podcast to do technology fasts. He was talking about how he used to put his laptop, phone, etc. in a bookbag and drop it off at a friend’s house for the weekend. At first, I was like, “whoa, chill out, Matt.” But then I decided to try it, because, frankly, fasting from my phone for a day is more appealing than fasting from food (my love for food is real). But y’all. The freedom I felt that day was unreal. I still tried to reach for my phone throughout the day and I kept worrying about missing out on a really important text or phone call, but for the first time, those voices and doubts were seen for what they are: lies! I am capable of a happy, fulfilled life without technology! And so are you. There is beauty at our fingertips, if only we’d free them from our phones.
Let me clarify though, this isn’t so much a note encouragement, but rather, an exhortation – an urging to do whatever you need to do to hear Jesus’ voice in your life. And do it now. Because with this enormous gift the Lord has given us, that being our unique unrepeatable selves, comes a great responsibility. We each have the ability to reflect and reveal an image of God that no one else can. But if we spend most of our day living for ourselves and entertaining ourselves, that image goes unnoticed.
Going back to Moana, when she stopped listening to the voice inside of her, the island began to die. The unique role she had to fill in her world was left undone because she stopped listening. Likewise with us, if enough people were to drown out the echo, we’d see a culture emerge that doesn’t see a need for God. A culture whose people have a hard time believing in their own dignity. Sound familiar?
So I urge you, not just for the sake of you so that you can have a peaceful, more fulfilled life, but for the sake of all of the people who need to see your image of God revealed…be generous with God. As you continue life after ECHO, fearlessly drive out the foxes so that you can continue listening to the echo that calls you onward.
“Are we not perhaps all afraid in some way? If we let Christ enter fully into our lives, if we open ourselves totally to Him, are we not afraid that He might take something away from us? Are we not perhaps afraid to give up something significant, something unique, something that makes life so beautiful? Do we not then risk ending up diminished and deprived of our freedom? No! If we let Christ into our lives, we lose nothing, nothing, absolutely nothing of what makes life free, beautiful and great. Only in this friendship are the doors of life opened wide. Only in this friendship is the great potential of human existence truly revealed. Only in this friendship do we experience beauty and liberation. And so, today, with great strength and great conviction, on the basis of long personal experience of life, I say to you, dear young people: Do not be afraid of Christ! He takes nothing away, and He gives you everything. When we give ourselves to Him, we receive a hundredfold in return. Yes, open, open wide the doors to Christ – and you will find true life.”
– Pope Benedict XVI
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