You may have heard a story like this of one elderly couple who were troubled by hearing problems….
John was becoming increasingly frustrated with his wife’s inability to hear what he said. “I can hear you quite well thank you” Ada would say.
So John told her he was going to test her hearing. Later that day, when Ada was in the kitchen, he went into the hall and asked in his normal voice “What are you cooking for tea, my love?” No reply.
John moved into the sitting room nearer to the kitchen and asked in the same voice “What are you cooking for tea, my love?” No reply.
Finally John stood at the door of the kitchen and repeated “What are you cooking for tea, my love?” Ada replied “For the third time, John, I’m cooking chicken casserole!”
A friend of mine was talking recently about the US Presidential election, pondering how Donald Trump came to be elected. He told me Hilary Clinton had written a book reviewing what happened. He hadn’t read the book but he had read several reviews of it in the press. He said the reviews could be summarised as “Why everyone else was to blame for my failure to get elected.”
I don’t know if that is a fair summary or not. But I do know that both these situations illustrate a common human failing which we probably all share to some extent. We find it hard to admit our own weaknesses or failings. We can be very good at justifying ourselves, and letting others bear the blame. We can often think that the problem is with someone else when we may actually be the problem ourselves. Sorry may indeed be the hardest word.
On a personal level this is destructive, since good relationships can only be built on honesty and a degree of self-awareness. On a bigger level, as a society, when we are blind to our own failings we find scapegoats, classes of people to blame. Usually people who are ‘not like us’. People we can label, make generalisations about, and readily de-humanise.
In this scenario, where people lack the humility, or the wisdom, to acknowledge their failings, it is perhaps inevitable that people blame God for the bad things that happen in the world, while failing to credit him with all the good things. God is ‘in the dock’ and we are pointing the finger at him.
A greater humility and honesty about our own failings allows us to receive the mercy of God. It enables us to discover that the fault lines in our own hearts and minds and souls are connected to the fault lines we see in other people, and in creation itself. All is in need of healing. And in discovering the healing mercy of God for ourselves, we are re-connected to the source of healing for all of creation.
God is speaking to us all the time. Until we acknowledge that the problem of hearing him is with us not him, we can’t progress in the relationship, nor have we much to offer a world which is deaf to his voice.
As Jesus said: Whoever has ears to hear – let them hear!