The alarm sounded. 5:47 am on a Wednesday. I knew I needed to get up and write. I reached for my phone as the familiar sounds of ringing and buzzing continued. Snooze. Just a few more minutes.
Thunder rolled in the distance.
I looked back at my phone. 5:52 am. Ok, I gave myself one snooze but now I really needed to get up. I needed to get back into a routine. Vacation was over. Time to get back to it.
I got out of bed quietly to keep from waking up my wife. As I made my way to the living room, bright flashes snuck through the small slits in between the the shades covering our back window. The wind whistled outside. It was storming.
I couldn’t find the iPad to do my morning writing. I looked all over the living room. “Oh, it must be on the charger back in the bedroom,” I thought. I heard rumbling outside like a host of horses galloping on a far-off field. I paused. Maybe I’ll read instead…
I grabbed the Bible and devotional book that sit on our living room bookshelf. I flipped the page to April 6. As I began to read, a sharp crack of lightning broke the early-morning silence. I wished the storm would just give me some peace and quiet to read.
I read about thankfulness. I read about focusing on God’s goodness instead of the troubles that surround us. I had heard that before. Good thoughts to start my day with, but I had other things to do. I went to go find the iPad.
I walked back into the bedroom and flipped on the flashlight on my iPhone. The lightning and the thunder hadn’t woken up my sleeping wife, but somehow that did. It was 6:23 am.
“What are you doing?” she asked, frustration clearly in her voice.
“Looking for the iPad,” I replied. “I need to write this morning.”
Just then, I noticed it above Sarah’s head. I grabbed the iPad and left Sarah to her sleep. It began to rain outside. The sound of harsh droplets hitting the roof mixed with the noise of the howling wind.
I went to sit down and start writing. Then I noticed a book on the table. The Art of Work by Jeff Goins. I’ve been slowly reading through it, but I hadn’t picked it up in a few days. I felt a strange urge to put down the iPad and pick up the book. “But I need to write!” I thought. For the first time all morning, I listened.
I read about the biblical story of Samuel. He was called by God three times. The first two times, he thought it was someone else. The third time, he listened.
And then amazing things happened.
I started to think about listening. At that moment, I heard the thunder again. I felt a strong urge to sit and actually listen to the storm outside. I opened the blinds and looked out the back window of our apartment. I turned off all the lights in the living room and sat on the couch. Watching. Listening.
I started to get cold as the wind and rain led a symphony of crashes and booms in the early morning sky. I reached for a blanket and curled up on the couch, fully expecting to receive some epiphany from listening to this storm.
Instead, I fell asleep.
The difference between hearing and listening is similar to the difference between seeing and watching. I fell asleep while trying to listen. It reminded me of a group of men who fell asleep while trying to watch. The story comes from Matthew 26:36–46…
“Then Jesus went with his disciples to a place called Gethsemane, and he said to them, ‘Sit here while I go over there and pray.’ He took Peter and the two sons of Zebedee along with him, and he began to be sorrowful and troubled. Then he said to them, ‘My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death. Stay here and keep watch with me.’
Going a little farther, he fell with his face to the ground and prayed, ’My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will.’
Then he returned to his disciples and found them sleeping. ‘Couldn’t you men keep watch with me for one hour?’ he asked Peter. ‘Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.’
He went away a second time and prayed, ‘My Father, if it is not possible for this cup to be taken away unless I drink it, may your will be done.’
When he came back, he again found them sleeping, because their eyes were heavy. So he left them and went away once more and prayed the third time, saying the same thing.
Then he returned to the disciples and said to them, ‘Are you still sleeping and resting? Look, the hour has come, and the Son of Man is delivered into the hands of sinners. Rise! Let us go! Here comes my betrayer!’”
I woke back up. It was 7:04 am. The storm had passed. It had become lighter outside. It wasn’t raining anymore and the wind had died down. A bird chirped outside. Now that the storm was gone, it was time for everyone to go about their day. I missed it. I missed my chance to listen.
So many impulses vie for our attention every waking second. We may hear noises in the background, but are we truly listening? We may see things, but are we really watching?
Or are we falling asleep to our calling?
I don’t know what I would have learned from listening to the storm. It may have been an epiphany from God, or it may have been the unique experience of simply listening to nature around me.
There will be more opportunities for me to listen and watch. It may be a storm or it may be a whisper. Either way, I don’t want to miss it.
Aaron Charles is a writer and marketing account executive from Indiana. You can connect with him on Twitter, Medium or Instagram. Aaron and his wife Sarah run a Medium publication called Cooking With Sarah that documents their weekly cooking adventures.