The First Step in Knowing

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The American poet, Mary Oliver, wrote a stunning little seven word poem that distills today’s scriptural reflection down to its simplest level. The poem goes this way:

ʺBe attentive.
Be astonished.
Tell about it.”

The first step in knowing anything is to be attentive, that is, to be fully awake. We are all capable of hearing God’s voice. It does not require genius, or a graduate level degree in theology to come to know God in our lives. What it does take is an attentive ear, an attitude of wonder, and a willingness to respond to God’s invitation to be in relationship with him.

God is knocking at the door of our soul every moment of every day. How often, though, are we distracted by life’s little and great concerns, or our attention is taken up by ʺall that glittersʺ in the world, and we miss that gentle tapping at our heart’s door? To be honest, lots of times. The wonder is that He never stops knocking. Now, imagine hearing a knock and going to the door, opening it, and there before you is Jesus. Would you not be utterly ʺastonished?ʺ Well, there he is, every time you respond to his quiet importuning at the door of your soul. When you respond in the solitude and the silence of your heart to that knock, and listen with your full attention to what he is telling you about life and your place in it, you will be astonished, and you will be filled with a desire to go out and tell others. Listen as he speaks to you in the most affectionate and comforting of terms. Hear his forgiveness for you, and his words of encouragement. All of this is available to you in the scriptures as well. Listen to God’s words as you read out loud. Be astonished, truly surprised and filled with wonder each time you read the scriptures. They are, after all, the living word of God speaking to you—to you—personally, here and now. If you let him in he ʺwill dine with you, and you with him.ʺ

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If you have been attentive; if you hear his knock and let him in, you will be astonished. And you will want to share your joy with others. Do not be afraid to do so. Share your astonishment with them. Let them know that Jesus is knocking at their doors too, that he wants to enter them and dine with them in the intimacy of their own homes, the houses of their own souls.

ʺBehold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, [then] I will enter his house and dine withhim, and he with me.ʺ (Reveleation 3:20) Let those who have ears hear. Be astonished. And tell about it.

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Dan Doyle is a husband, father, grandfather, Vietnam veteran, and retired professor of Humanities at Seattle University. He taught 13 years at the high school level and 22 years at the university level. He spends his time now babysitting his granddaughter. He is a poet and a blogger as well. Dan holds an AA degree in English Literature, a BA in Comparative Literature, and an MA in Theology, and writes regularly for The Veterans Site blog.