I don’t know if you’ve had the privilege of encountering Dora the Explorer, but she’s a gifted little gal. I love her Spanish lessons and her wide friend circle, mainly comprised of bilingual animals. I love her willingness to face danger and her willingness to ask for directions. My only hesitation in voting Dora for president is this: she has zero volume control. She has no inside voice. She only knows how to yell. She yells at Swiper the fox, she yells “GRACIAS!”, she yells whether she’s excited or calm or sleeping. I find it endearing that she has no change in the volume of her voice. Mainly because I have a five-year-old that has the same tendency. Ellia yells her greetings, she yells when she’s happy, she yells when she whispers and when she cries. This way of speaking presents a particular problem when she especially wants to be heard. She’s already maxed out her decibel production, so instead of speaking louder, she just repeats what she wants to say until someone acknowledges her. “DADDY, WATCH THIS! DADDY, WATCH THIS! DADDY, WATCH…” “Ok, Ellia!”
She looks to make sure we watch her when she’s about to go down the slide. She calls to us to hear her funny joke or her new song. She yells a question over and over until we literally say, “Yes, we hear you, honey!”
It’s never enough for us to just yell. There’s something in us that needs to know we are heard. We want to know that it matters when we talk, it matters what we say, it matters that our voice gets out of our heads and slams against more than empty air.
And we live in a world full of yellers.
People screaming to everyone and no one to look at them—to give them what they lack from childhood, to watch them perform and offer approval, to hear their angst and regret, dreams and ideas. Everyone around us is yelling to be heard.
And we are among them. We are yellers, too. We stand at the top of big events and ask the world to watch. We want to be appreciated. We want to know it matters what we think and feel.
The question isn’t whether or not we’re yelling, but to whom are we yelling?
The psalmist cries out, “Incline your ear to me; listen to my plea for grace.” God—hear me. Lean toward me.
“In the day of my trouble I call upon you, for you answer me.”
The psalmist has aimed his cries at God. He’s put his eggs in one basket. He’s agreed to trust God.
Listen to me, please, God. Because when I struggle, I’m calling to you for help.
Rarely do we have this kind of resolve in calling out to God. Normally, we yell to God but also to family, friends, anyone with power or anyone from whom we desire approval. We are looking for a response and God is one of many whom we hope will answer.
But the psalmist is declaring a particular desperation. God is the only one who can answer. It is God who he’s yelling for.
This is a risky move—letting go of trying to be heard by the masses to making a plea with One.
But I wonder if this trust, this deep understanding the Psalmist displays, his certainty that God will listen, maybe this is the way we need to yell.
This certitude comes from times of leaning in, times of letting God’s ear receive our pain and praise. There is established trust, a history and a future that accompanies the gift of faith. The psalmist can step out on a ledge because he knows the God to whom he is speaking.
And God answered.
But before his hope could be confirmed, before the psalmist knew for certain God would not only listen but respond, he had to call out.
To whom are we yelling?
Who do we hope will hear us? Whose ear are we seeking? Are we taking the full risk of letting God hold us when we crash? Or is God a backup to a sturdier support system?
How can we recognize God’s answer if we don’t really care if he does? How will we see God if we don’t throw ourselves into calling out to him alone?
Maybe it’s time to move from placing a general call to trusting God to be the place where our yells land. Maybe this hope we express as we incline our ear to him alone will bring about the satisfaction we most want.
It’s a risky move, but it’s the only place in the world where we can know we are heard.