Listening for God
Listening for God
Copyright 2016 by Matt Kuvakos
Published by Matt Kuvakos at Shakespir
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For those who are seeking answers in their life. There is always a glimmer of light waiting for you to see it.
Listening for God
I was walking alone down a dimly lit street in my neighborhood the first time I ran up to God’s door wanting to smash it down and face Him. “What do you want from me?” I stopped in the middle of the street and looked straight up with my arms held out by my side. Maybe a little dramatic, but it felt like it was needed to get some sort of answer.
A memory of watching my dad speak to hundreds of people in church popped in my head. I could see his tie swinging back and forth as he paced across the stage, and I remembered what he had said, “God is love, and I promise you all today, that He loves you.” I turned around and spit in the direction of my house where my dad was with his new “girlfriend.” The first time I met her was the night I stumbled upon their affair while my mom was out of town. Anyway, because of what happened, I didn’t care to be around either her or my dad anymore. I was only 17 at the time and I felt lost.
Until, I received a random email from an old family friend, and pastor Steve Kane. He had heard about my exploding family situation and asked me to join him and a small group to go to Honduras. I agreed, but it didn’t seem real until we were actually on the plane and in the air on our way.
“I’m glad you decided to come with, Ronnie.” Pastor Steve leaned over with his breath still smelling like coffee. I hadn’t seen him in a long time, but he was always someone I knew I could trust.
“I appreciate you asking me to.” I turned to face Steve who was leaning forward trying to look out the planes window. His hair looked like it wanted to escape from his own head as if he was a mad scientist who had just returned to civilization after months of research.
“Well, I figured you’d like to spend three weeks in the jungle right about now.” He chuckled to himself while pulling out a journal from his bag.
“So, what can I expect to see?”
“Honestly, I don’t know.” He covered his mouth as he yawned. “If this village is anything like the other ones we have visited, then…” He shook his head slightly and looked through some scribbling’s in his journal before running a hand through his hair smoothing the wild mess. “They need water and we’re going to give it to them. God will show us what He wants us to see, ya know?”
I nodded and turned to look back out the window. The plane was flying through a cloud so my view was nothing but moving whiteness. I wondered what it meant for God to show me something. I knew all of the pastor lingo, but it was never quite put that way before. Was He showing something to me now? Would there be some sort of Holy experience when that happened?
As I continued to look out at the vast whiteness I imagined Gods eyes within the cloud looking right back at me. “Show me.” I thought to myself, pushing my forehead against the cool window, looking even harder for a glimpse of heaven. I eventually shut my eyes and fell asleep until we landed.
That first night I fumbled with a pack of cigarettes in my jeans pocket and looked up at this new sky specked with stars as if they were tiny white particles on a blank chalkboard. I lit the cigarette and watched the smoke drift into the air. I slouched down on a bench outside of the hotel and propped my head up so I was looking at nothing but space. “Are You in control?” My eyes moved slowly, from side to side, searching the sky like a patrolling security guard watching over a vacant lot.
Beside some distant whines from cars and a few foreign voices, everything was quiet. I was having a private meeting with the universe. Something I had never had before.
I just sat there for a while longer before stretching out my arms above my head as if I was being pulled into the sky to join the stars. Then I shuffled back into the Americanized hotel and just lay in my bed staring at the dark ceiling.
“What do You want me to see?” I listened to a baby whimpering in the room next to mine, the echo from a car alarm a few blocks away, and the continuous buzzing of the Marriot sign just outside the window. My dad would always share mission trip stories with me so I already knew I would be seeing mass poverty and hungry kids with sad faces, and I knew I would probably be a changed person for a month or so afterward. That’s just what I observed with every person that came back from one of these trips. I didn’t want that. If God was in control I wanted more, I needed more, but what else was there?
The next morning our small group of six men crammed into a rusted van to begin our five-hour drive deep into the jungles of Honduras to our destination of, “La Union,” that was the title we had given the village. I was buried in the back row with all of the luggage since I was the smallest. I leaned my head against the window and watched as the noise of civilization was replaced with wild looking trees. The concrete buildings that surrounded us were now massive hills wrapped in thick green plants like moss-covered boulders. A few hours into the drive the paved road was replaced with a dirt path that could barely contain our van that bobbed from side to side like a boxer during a fight.
I noticed locals walking down the road with big cumbersome bags while others lugged wooden carts behind them stuffed with bananas. Their faces were all the same, filled with determination as they climbed. I could almost feel their heart pounding against their chest as all of them raced against the heat of the day. Then, as if we had reached a new section of Honduras, the people walking beside us faded, leaving only our van with tangled green vines drooping above us creating the jungles version of a tunnel. The van bulldozed its way through thick branches until it finally stopped.
“We’re here, gentlemen.” Steve’s voice was muffled until I un-popped my ears. He looked back at us with wide eyes.
“It’s time to hike.” He shifted back around in his seat, “Ah, Gustavo.” He opened his door and waved to a short man wearing khaki shorts and a dirty white shirt walking towards us with three other men that were shirtless and carried machetes.
“Senor Steve,” Gustavo flashed a bright smile and hugged Steve when he got out. I guessed he was our translator. As they continued to talk, I stepped out of the van and into what seemed like an alien planet. My feet sunk into the damp, black mud, pulling me in deeper and deeper the longer I stood still. I grabbed my bag and clasped it around my waist and kicked my feet away from the jungles muddy mouth. I kept my eyes on the three men with the machetes.
They stood watching us, smirking as we slipped and stumbled like we were toddlers learning to walk for the first time. Once we gathered all of our supplies, Gustavo pointed up a steep incline that was blanketed in trees. The three men then slashed a trail for us with their blades where Gustavo had pointed. They were cutting machines, their arms spinning like airplane propellers hacking plants into confetti. We followed behind them, gasping for air.
Once we were on top of the hill there was the village schoolhouse that was painted turquoise.
The roof was just a slate of metal with a piece that hung over the edge covering a long picnic table on a slab of concrete. Inside, they had set up cots for us to sleep along the cracked walls. This was now our home. There was only a pair of scared looking older women with sad brown eyes there to greet us. They both nodded nervously as we passed.
Steve raised one hand in the air to get our attention when we were unpacking our things. “Ok, guys. We’re going to hike up to the leader of the village’s house. Gustavo…” he laid his hand on Gustavo’s shoulder next to him, “has informed me that Mi…” Steve looked at Gustavo for the information before remembering the name, “Miguel is very sick and does not have much longer to live. But, he’s awake and is aware that we are here. He wants to meet us. This is why we are here. He’s dying from the water…” Steve kept on talking, but I couldn’t help but notice some drawings flapping in the breeze above each cot. Above my cot was a picture of a flower with seven brightly colored petals; it was like a rainbow flower. On the right hand corner of the page was the sun and scribbled on the bottom was the name of the artist, Emilia.
For a moment, I thought I was looking at a real flower swaying in the wind. I couldn’t help but smile. I then realized Steve was saying a prayer.
“…use us, Lord. Amen.”
“Amen,” everyone repeated except me.
As we hiked our way through more jungle to Miguel’s house I thought of the last words of Steve’s prayer, use us, Lord. “How could you use me?” I wondered to myself. I then started to think of the flower drawing, and I pictured the bright flowers sprouting on the side of the path. I imagined with each step I took, another one of those flowers would reach out from the dirt and shine onto anyone that passed. In my head, I made them indestructible, so not even a machete could destroy them.
I heard Gustavo up ahead explaining to us that each villager’s house was scattered throughout and that Miguel’s was the closest to the school. The flowers disappeared in my mind as we pushed our way forward, with the three machete wielders slicing the way for us. We came to a clearing with a small cube shaped stone structure with a tin roof.
“That can’t be the house.” I said to myself. I was the last in line to see. In front of the house was a tiny, crumbling well with a plastic hose coming out of it. There were three mangy looking dogs running around barking along with a few chickens scooting out of our way.
“Hola!” Gustavo yelled as we approached the shack. A lady walked out smiling and talking fast in Spanish. She held her arms open towards us as if she was going to give us one big hug. She didn’t look like the other two women I saw. Her eyes were not filled with sadness, but with joy.
She had on a normal t-shirt with jeans and was missing a few teeth. Clinging on the side of her leg was a little girl with the biggest brown eyes. The little girl smiled at us revealing her dimples and skipped away from her mom briefly, before returning to her for safety. She stuffed her tiny hands into her front pockets of her overalls that had pink flowers covering them. Her mom was dusting off the little girls blue undershirt and fixing her hair into pigtails as she talked and talked in Spanish.
The little girl just smiled and looked at each one of us as her mom fixed her up. Gustavo finally turned around and introduced us to the both of them.
“Guys, this is Rosa,” he motioned toward the lady, “and her daughter, Emilia.”
“Hola!” Emilia shouted at us and hid behind her mom’s leg once more. Rosa motioned for us to come into their home. I wasn’t sure how we would even fit, but we did. As soon as I walked in, the smell hit me and seemed to stick inside my nose. The smell was sickness kept fresh by the stagnant air like some sort of incubator. There were pots hanging from the ceiling along with a hammock. Miguel was stuffed in the corner on a pad on the floor covered with blankets.
He moaned and raised his hand at Gustavo. Flies buzzed around us like miniature vultures, waiting for Miguel to die. Gustavo and Steve knelt down next to him pushing aside a few pictures of the same colorful flower hanging above my cot. We were clearly in the home of my new favorite artist.
I needed to get fresh air along with the other guys and I noticed Emilia watching us, so I motioned for her to come outside too. She just gripped onto her mom’s leg tighter. Once I was out of the shack I sat on a boulder that was a few feet away from the house. Emilia then peeked her head out from the door and saw me. I waved to her again. I wanted to try and let her know that I liked her drawing. Plus, no child needs to be within reach of deaths bony fingers. This time she came wandering over and rocked back and forth on her feet in front of me.
“Hola, Emilia. Me llamo, Ronnie.” I probably sounded like a fool to her.
She giggled, “Hola, Rrronnie.” She rolled her tongue as she pronounced my name.
“Your drawing.” I started to pantomime me drawing on my hand with a finger and pointed at her. She stared at me smiling and stuffed her hands in her pockets.
“Flores,” I remembered the word for flowers.
Her eyes lit up and without hesitation ran passed me and was swallowed whole by the gates of the jungle.
“Emilia?” I quickly followed her. Thankfully, she waited for me and now I found myself in the middle of a green paradise. Emilia tugged at my hand, and pointed to our left where there was a patch of bright white flowers. She let go of my hand and launched herself into the flowers pretending to swim through them, laughing while she played. I’m not sure what happened, but something inside of me somewhere, let go. I leaped into the flower patch and unlike Emilia’s swimming technique I preferred to roll around probably looking like a crazy person, but it didn’t matter. I was a kid again.
“Gahhh!” A pain filled cry broke through our laughter, coming from where the shack was. Emilia turned to face her home and then back to me.
“Let’s go.” I motioned for her to follow me. As soon as I saw my team another shriek escaped from the shacks mouth.
“Papa?” I turned to Emilia and saw the look of concern take over her innocent face. Steve was standing in the doorway with his palm facing me, telling me to keep Emilia out with me.
“Emilia, flores flores.” With a twig I started to draw the flower in the dirt that she had unknowingly drawn for me back at the schoolhouse. She watched as I drew.
“Ahhh!” Miguel screamed out once more and Emilia started to turn around, again.
“Mirar,” I was hoping that meant look. She looked back at me and to my drawing. She then grabbed her own twig and started to sketch a flower next to mine. I got up and sat next to her on the ground. I wanted so bad to just put my hands over her ears to shield her from hearing her dad’s cries.
He continued to wail out for mercy. I didn’t know what else to do so as I drew I started making funny noises and made her laugh each time her dad started to yell. It seemed like days until he finally stopped. When he did stop we had both drawn about twenty of those flowers in the dirt. I was drenched in sweat while Emilia kept on drawing.
“Is he alright?” I saw Steve and Gustavo headed towards me.
“This happens daily. He’s alright for now. You did good.” Steve probably noticed the sweat dripping down my face. Gustavo knelt down next to Emilia and started to talk with her. I couldn’t understand anything they were saying, but she looked at me while she talked.
“Si, Dios.” Gustavo finished responding to her then looked at me and smiled a bright smile. “She said that you must be from God, because you like flowers as much as she does.” Emilia wrapped her arms around my waist and ran back to her mom’s side. Gustavo patted me on the back as he walked passed me, “ready?”
“Yeah,” I looked at the garden Emilia and I drew with its imperfect lines and lack of clear color. It may not have been like the patch we discovered in the jungle, but my life, and all of our lives, was just like that drawing, no clear definition but it was drawn from love and from a place of common suffering. I shut my eyes to say my first true prayer, and only two words came out, “I’m listening.”
After losing faith in those around him, 17 year old Ronnie is in search for some answers about life. So, he decides to join a pastor on a mission trip to Honduras, hoping to answer one of the biggest questions humanity can ask, is God real? Will God answer?