Brandon can attest to the fact that when we became friends years ago, I had no idea what I wanted to do. But I DID know what I DIDN'T want to do: become a teacher. Ever. I kept piping up to tell God no again. Oh, how He gently guides us to our true voices. Today I am a 6th grade language arts teacher who feels the daily joy of teaching young people how to communicate clearly, thereby finding their own true voices. Part of God's process of deeply changing me involved a massive stroke that left me quadriplegic when I was 20 years old. Some people are sheep He can make to "lie down in green pastures." Some are storms to whom He must say, "Peace. Be still." I was a storm. But when I was still, I finally learned--finally, finally--to listen. To this day, my most exhausting exercise is closing my mouth.***
Nika is one of the most gifted people I know. Sheryl and I have had a life covered in wonderful moments with friends and lots of laughter. But, I can speak for both of us in saying that moments with Nika rank in our top 5 most hilarious memories. Nika was a bridesmaid in our wedding, has been a cheerleader on our journey, and remains a treasured friend. This piece she sent me means so much more just knowing what Nika has had to overcome in her life. She truly is (as I have named her link in my favorite websites) an "extraordinary" person. I know it will bless you!
I was reading a picture book to my nieces, five and three, in an overstuffed platform rocker, which decided to stop working that day, at age 65, like most humans do. Antiques are lovely, but high-performance vehicles, they are not. Especially under the weight of sleep-avoidant wigglers.
“Please be still. This chair is not sturdy, girls,” I pleaded. They shifted and twisted as if it were a gymnastics competition and not naptime. “Please!” I grunted, with an elbow in my liver. “I can’t even see over your bobbing heads to read the book. Just stop and listen.” Their movement continued. Then the movement continued without them. We were falling slowly backward, the lot of us. I talked the whole way down.
“Do you see what is happening here? We are tumping over. I knew it. I told you this chair could not hold us unless we were still ...” We hit the hardwood floor at that point, and because the chair was so delightfully overstuffed, the fall was more of a poof than a boom. Our legs stood in the air like six buildings in an awkward city skyline. I kept talking, “... and quiet. Still and quiet! There was no need for all the fidgeting that was going on just then. No need. All you had to do was stop and listen,” I looked at the ceiling, sighing loudly.
The second hand ticked on the kitchen clock. It was a long moment before my eldest niece said matter-of-factly, “We’re upside down.”
How had this absurdity slipped by me? I turned to her, still tucked in the crook of my left arm, and marveled, “We are, indeed.” We laughed then, heartily and for what seemed like weeks packed tightly into minutes. The girls were amused by the lunacy of landing topsy-turvy, I’m sure. I was tickled by the idea of the lunatic herself, who cannot see, cannot fix a problem for talking about it instead. “Just stop and listen,” I chuckled to my fidgety self.
Listening is something even a child can do, when he tries. I think of that ancient Bible story, and suddenly boy Samuel has my attention. This precocious kid lives in the temple, studying full time with a priest. One night he can’t sleep, and from the moment he lifts his distracted head from the pillow, he is on the move, looking for answers. Three times he asks his spiritual mentor, Eli, who is dozing in the next room, if it was he who had been calling out. Three times Eli tells Samuel, no, go back to sleep. But it’s not that easy. Insomnia. Oh, the universal misery. In fact, insomnia might have been a good idea for a plague, if God hadn’t gotten the point across so well with the frogs and flies and hail and all that. Kudos to our boy Sam, though. He figures it out.
He finally stops fidgeting and says, “Speak Lord, for your servant is listening.” And, lo and behold, the Lord does speak. Good story. Look it up: I Samuel 3.
“That’s all you have to do,” God seems to say to every last sleep-deprived one of us, “Just stop and listen. There isn’t a need for all that fidgeting.” But look at us in the night, trying to get back to sleep by reading, pacing, snacking, or -- the worst -- surfing the Web (last time I checked, shining a light directly into one’s pupils tends to keep one awake). The last thing we do is just stop and listen. But what if it was God who nudged us out of slumber? What if He had been calling to us all day and never got through? What if He could not be heard above the bustle of our busy lives so He spoke into the stillness of the night?
I challenge you to stop fidgeting. The next time you struggle with insomnia, just stop and listen. There’s a verse that promises God sings over us, you know. Shh. Listen. You wouldn’t want to miss your lullaby.
**Nika Maples was named Texas secondary teacher of the year in 2007. Her life and words have inspired thousands of people. Her book, Twelve Clean Pages, is due to be released this summer. (I just finished the manuscript and it is AWESOME!) Visit her website at http://nikamaples.com/