Wednesday, August 29, 2012
Whispered Prophecies and Burning Bushes
Sometimes I get the feeling that something is coming, like change is on the air. I find myself stopping to listen, as if the wind is whispering prophecies, knowing all I will hear is the impersonal rustling of leaves. And I turn my face up, toward the open sky, and ask God: What is it? What now?
It’s not a burning bush. It’s quiet, nagging but tentative. It’s not a busting-down-the-door kind of thing; it’s more tossing pebbles at my window from the sidewalk below. I sense that a change is coming, but I don’t know from where yet, or when, or what it will mean. I feel I am being warned, primed, readied and steadied for something.
I get this feeling once in a while, this premonition. The sense that change is coming creeps in, like the smell of a new season, just a hint at first that begins to grow as each day goes by. It comes in on tiptoes and lingers at the door, quietly clearing its throat, waiting to be noticed. It happened just before I met my husband, all four times before I moved across the country, before I went back to school, before each pregnancy, before family members have died. I never know what it means, just that it means something is coming.
Its subtlety is unnerving because I work in a world of explicit warnings and demands. Children tugging at my pant legs, chanting mom, mom, mom, mom. Deadlines with email reminders. Legally required notices to tell you someone’s policy has changed. Ads that some product has been reformulated or some business is under new management.
And I pray for burning bushes because, let’s face it, sometimes talking to the sky feels crazy and it would be nice to have a clear answer for once. Go to Africa, my child, and minister to the sick. Or, take that job, it’s perfect for you. Just something loud and concrete, something unmistakable so you don’t keep yourself up at night wondering if you were listening to divine inspiration or the agitated burbling of some bad pork you ate.
This feeling, this sense that change is coming, has been lingering in the doorway a few weeks now, hardly more than a shadow, casting meaningful glances that I can’t decipher. And I’ve been looking around, sizing up my life like a realtor walking a property, adding up damages and sorting out the value of the thing. What’s going to stay and what’s going to have to go this time?
I used to think it was restlessness, this feeling. I figured it was because I moved a lot as a child. If I didn’t get a new house, new school, new people every 18 months or so, I would start to get restless. I wondered if I would grow up to be some kind of artsy nomad, wandering from place to place, writing bad poetry and doing sketches of the local architecture. I alternated between leaning into the feeling, trying to satisfy it by ginning up some new adventure, and bolting away from the feeling, clutching my sense of security like an old woman holding on to her pearls in a bad part of town.
By now I’ve learned that this premonition of coming change is a mercy, though its subtlety scares me. I think it is like the warning a nurse gives you before she sticks the needle in. You might feel a bit of pressure here. This might sting some. Prepare yourself.
This is not the time for knowing. It is the time for asking, for talking to the sky and praying for burning bushes or even whispered prophecies. It is the time for trusting, even when the only response is the rustling of leaves overhead. It is the time for waiting and believing that in the active-passive exercise of waiting, you are doing something, doing enough, just sitting here learning to be patient enough for the bigger picture to be revealed. And for now, until the rest of the picture is revealed to me, all I can do is close my eyes, take a deep breath, and wait for the needle plunge.