Megan McKenna is a theologian and storyteller who travels the world spreading the good news about God’s love and challenge to us to live out that love. Often her stories are from other cultures or religious traditions and help clarify the lessons of our own Christian faith tradition.
In Playing Poker with Nana, Megan reaches into her own life to share with us the wisdom of her grandmother, her Nana. I received a copy of the book from Megan as an Epiphany gift, and I am savoring it. Part of me wants to race from chapter to chapter (each 2-3 pages long) and devour it in a sitting. The older, and I hope wiser, part of me advises reading it one chapter, one story at a time and pondering the advice and insights her Nana shared with Megan. So most days I read just one at bedtime and let it simmer in my heart and the back of my mind through the next day.
Yesterday I read Chapter 10, “History.” Megan had quoted Martin Buber to her Nana one day in conversation. “God is always speaking, but never repeats himself, like sunrises and sunsets.” Her Nana reflected on the quote and then responded with her own thought, “It’s true. God speaks in everything, people, relationships, even all that dies, but sometimes, I’ve learned, God speaks very, very, very slowly …”
Before she finishes speaking, Nana has explained in beautiful depth her thoughts on the matter, on the very slow way God has of speaking to us most of the time.
The chapter is only three paragraphs long, but it stuck with me all day today. At Mass, the Psalm response was, “If today you hear His voice, harden not your hearts.” It really struck me that Nana’s words went right along with the admonition of the psalmist. Sometimes we hear God’s voice in bursts of insight or in the wonder of a particularly beautiful sunrise or sunset. But more often we hear God’s voice in the quiet reflective times, when we seek to understand what has been happening in our lives and those of people around us. Nana advises Megan and all of us that sometimes we just have to stake our lives on the hope that, hard as life is, it’s already been redeemed, so we just have to “believe and hang in there.”
As I was walking home past a calm, nearly waveless ocean on a beautiful sunny day, I found words for what I was feeling in my heart and trying to formulate in my mind. Often we as Americans have a sense that only the “hard-nosed” businessperson can be a success. Only the practical, matter-of-fact person will accomplish his or her goals. Only those who set goals and focus single-mindedly on reaching them will find security. Being “soft-hearted” is not a quality that we value very much. It tends to get lumped in with being “simple-minded” or a “bleeding heart liberal” in the minds of many. Yet that is exactly what it seems God is calling us to be. The opposite of a hard heart is a soft one. One that knows that God speaks very, very, very slowly and we might not see the whole picture just now, or be hearing the whole story.
Thank you, Megan, for sharing your Nana’s wisdom with us. May her words help us to keep hanging on, listening for God’s voice, with soft hearts ready to love and be loved.
(Playing Poker with Nana is distributed in the US by Dufour Editions. I highly recommend it.)Read More