The Power of 3 Voices
It was my turn to bring a spiritual practice to our meeting. These meetings had been contentious at best. Needless to say, I was not looking forward to sitting in a space made miserable by in-fighting and distrust. I already had a long day at work.
In preparation for this practice, I prayerfully considered what might be helpful - what words could be heard in a silenced contemplative space without accusation or judgment. The truth is that the antagonists were actually on opposite ends of the same focus, the same intention. Their ultimate main concern was the same only overshadowed by embedded theologies that were at odds. Some of them couldn't listen to another's voice. Some of them couldn't consider that our ways may not be God's ways even if that was their strongest desire.
I chose Acts 10 - mostly verses 9-15. I am often anxious about how others might perceive my actions. I am intentional about my choices and take to heart the possibilities that there might be some discomfort because of them. I go back to prayer hoping to have my personal agenda diminished.
I arrived at the meeting about 10 minutes early. I'd decided that this text would best be presented in three different translations. So I printed out the three on a single page - NRSV, NIV, NLT. I prayed again while sitting in the car. It came to me that none of the voices reading this text aloud should be mine. I was listening to this divine direction ... there would be three other voices reading each of the three translations.
"I'm sorry. What, God? At the same time?" Ok??? I would be directing the readers to read the text simultaneously. My anxiety skyrocketed.
The meeting started on time. My turn was coming fast - after the greetings and brief check-in. I looked around the table as 14 or so faces stared back at me. No smiles. Three volunteers presented themselves and the reading began. There was no way for me to have anticipated how this would work out. It was the most AMAZING thing. These three voices all saying the same thing in slightly different ways - agreeing at times; at times not. They somehow spoke in a cadence which I likened to a spiritual heartbeat. And it was all from our sacred text.
As the reading ended and just before the silent contemplation, I heard someone exhale and whisper, "That was awesome!"
And it truly was...awesome. Not only were we hearing God encouraging us to consider that the habitual dogmatic ways we have done things (while practicing our faith) just might be the thing that has us in "stuckness" unable to notice what else God might be doing, we had also experienced in real-time that God's word was still God's word even when different interpretations were spoken.
God seems to use simple exercises to create profound experiences. I was prompted to consider in a new way how our embedded theologies - our own interpretations, learnings and actions, may be what stifles our spiritual growth. I am challenged to go back and read again what I thought I knew for sure; to read it in a different way, different place, different volume and then to be still and listen.