Monday, September 1, 2014

First Aid by Ear

“What first aid treatment in shock is administered by ear?”
I read these words in Cutting for Stone, expressing Abraham Verghese's lingering question that echoes long after I read it.
The answer is one every first responder needs to know: words of comfort.
Words of comfort speak directly into the heart and soul as first aid for the weary. Words of comfort--like friends who show up with good food-- are welcome anywhere. While reassuring words may not change our circumstances, they remain an audible reminder that we are not alone.

New parents are advised to soothe their newborns with a shushing sound directly into the ear. Whispering with gentle cooing has a role, but not for this practice. No, “Hush, Chile” from the old days will suffice here.  The modern shushing technique must be loud enough to transmit the rushing wind sound over the baby's distress to induce calm and security. It works.
It all goes back to what we know first: That primal, pulsing, whooshing that surrounded the baby before birth continues to bring comfort when applied to soothe.
Hmmm, rushing wind. Pulsing breaths. Something sounds familiar.

The ancient Hebrew word for both spirit and breath is Ruah. "Breathe on me breath of God"..... Y-H-W-H. The sound of many waters. Images flood my mind as I give it line and let it run free.

We encounter God in various ways. I have experienced God's greatest revelation in Jesus Christ, and also I remember God is said to speak in the sound of thunder (Psalm 18 and Psalm 29) and in the sound of rushing waters (Ezekiel 43:2 and Revelation 1:9-19). Some may dismiss the value of these references as simple poetic devices in ancient literature, but I am on the side of the psalmist and prophets: they offer a picture of God's speaking words of comfort administered by ear into the heart of a distressed child.

The holy hush.

God whispers above the cacophony of the world, above the tumult within, to calm and soothe and to remind us that we are always—always – God’s beloved.

Sometimes we may experience a gentle but firm shushing in a new way that gets our attention. We may have occasion to sense a whisper of sorts loudly enough to be felt and heard over the tumult where we live.

When we, like the fretful, inconsolable infant, most need reassurance and redirection, we may experience a fresh resonant Presence that surrounds us even in the midst of our ordinary lives. This caress of the Spirit that never leaves us nor forsakes us reminds me that I never doubted Jesus for a moment, only myself.

We will all have fretful days and fitful nights.
Life casts us into seas of turmoil that challenge our notions about safe harbors and security. Our brushes with crises, whether health, family or financial; marital breakdown; heartache and loss of many kinds all threaten to overtake us and drag us in the undertow. Even when we know to expect such difficulties as a part of life, they can take us by storm and by surprise when they make landfall at our doorstep.
 But it came to me clearly upon waking in the wee hours one morning, this holy hush.
And it came among the promises of the Lord to attend to us even in the night.

“When I remember You on my bed, I meditate on You in the night watch because You have been my help; therefore in the shadow of Your wings, I will rejoice.” (Psalm 63:6, 7)
“The Lord God has given me the tongue of one who has been taught, that I may know how to sustain with a word the one who is weary. Morning by morning He awakens my ear to hear as the student, as one who is taught.” (Isaiah 50:4)

“…How to sustain with a word the one who is weary.” There it is again: words of comfort.  First aid by ear. 
Each of us is a first responder in someone’s life. We need to know where to turn in times of crisis ourselves and how to initiate first aid for others. To give a warm embrace accompanied by caring words requires no special training or certification. The effect, much like swaddling a newborn to keep arms from flailing in distress, will begin to soothe a frantic soul. 

"The grass withers, the flower fades, but the word of our God stands forever" (Isaiah 40:8).

“He strengthens the weary and increases the power of the weak. He renews the strength of those who hope in Him” (Isaiah 40:29-31).

Darrell Creswell's image used with permission.

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