Nearest to the Ears of God

It was John Piper’s wisdom that once said something like, “It’s not books that change us, it’s sentences.” He means that it’s not typically 50,000 words that land on our hearts with memorable impact, but it’s 50 words within those 50,000. It’s a line or two here, a paragraph there — something we didn’t expect and then … there it is. 

I knew I had stumbled on that kind of quote a couple months back while reading Augustine’s Confessions. It was in Book II:

Nothing is nearer to your ears than a confessing heart and a life grounded in faith.

Forgive me if you’ve heard me cite this quote recently, but I can’t help myself. It’s too good — too relevant. Just this morning, over a cup of coffee, as a friend shared about his newfound freedom in Christ after years of performance, he set the ball on the tee for me. “Can I share a quote with you?”, I asked. “I won’t tell you who said it; but listen to this…”

Nothing is nearer to the ears of God than a confessing heart and a life lived by faith. 

It means, at the very least, no hiding. In Genesis 3, after Adam and Eve had plunged themselves and this whole world into the curse of sin, God comes to them and he asks them a question. Do you remember what he asks them?

He says, “Where are you?” (Genesis 3:9)

He knew where they were. And they knew too. That’s why they were hiding. They were ashamed. They realized they were a mess, but they didn’t want God to find out. Their answer? 

Fig leaves. 

Some type of covering. It was their sleight of hand, their little diversion, to keep God from seeing them in their worst. We have those too, you know. Maybe it’s activities, maybe religiosity, maybe it’s working yourself to exhaustion so that you don’t have to face the music of an unkept soul. The fig leaves were fine. God had made them, after all — just not to be a covering. And God still asked, “Where are you?

God still asks that question today, like everyday . . .  of each one of us. 

Where are you?

And Saint Augustine, a man who knew too well what it meant to run and hide from his Creator, had discovered the freedom of being real. That’s what Confessions is all about.

Okay, Father, I’m right here, and I’m a mess. I’m not hiding. I’m not running. I’m just here, and you see me and know me. And you love me. I know you do.

And God hears a prayer like that. I don’t know how your imagination works, but the image that comes to my mind is of a father kneeling down and cupping his ears to listen to jabber of his young daughter. She’s not great at talking. She’s still working on how to say a few words. But she’s saying something, and she’s saying it to her dad. And he cares. So he listens. Nothing could be closer to his attention in that moment, nothing nearer to his ears.

That’s the image my soul brings into Advent this year. In this season of waiting, of longing, can we be honest with God? We’re here, Father. Can we really tell him all our hearts? It’s messy. Can we trust that he is good? We know you love us.

For unto us a child is born, unto us a Son is given ... the zeal of the Lord of hosts will do this.

Christ has come; Christ will come again.