Na’aseh V’nishma (reflection)

“we will do, [then] we will understand.”—Exodus 19:8 (PT)

Last year (February 2016)  I went through a period of a couple weeks where the Voice seemed distant.  My inner mystic was hollow.  The illuminating pop that had accompanied so much of the previous four months was gone.  A mentor was helping me process some spiritual realities and I relayed how nothing was making sense to me.    

The mentor asked me what was the last thing I could remember God saying to me.

“Go out on Polk Street and share my love with someone,” (me)

“And?” (him)

“Well, that was about three weeks ago.   And I have been really busy, and just haven’t got around to it.” (me)

“Hmmm.  Do you sense anything right now?” (him)

“Yeah.  Like I should go out on Polk.” (me)

We do not think ourselves into new ways of living, we live ourselves into new ways of thinking,
— Richard Rohr

The next day I prayed before heading out.   (I really didn't know what the moment was supposed to look like).   I closed my eyes trying to picture it and instantly I had this image of a twenty-something young man, with a bike, leaning up against the building on Polk and Fern alley.   When I got there, there was no bike or twenty-something.  I stepped in Quetzals and ordered a coffee and then went out and sat in the parklet and just waited.

About 5 minutes later this young man exited Quetzal and turned to walk down Fern.   Nervously sensing that this might be the one I was supposed to share the Father's love with, I slowly walked after the young man.   By the time I caught up with him he had ducked into a door-cove and was smoking some pot.

I introduced myself with, “Hey man.  It’s a beautiful day.  This may seem strange, at least to me it is, but I just need to do this.  I saw you walk by and couldn't help but feel that I should bless you and pray for you.  Would that be ok?”  (Yeah, that was the only thing I could think of at the moment that seemed to be consistent with sharing God’s love.)

“Cool, man. I don’t know how you do this.   I don't think anyone has ever prayed for or blessed me.  Can you still pray for me with my...?”  (He held up his joint.)

“Sure.  Is there something you have been concerned with today?  Or something deep inside that you are longing for?”  (I was searching for how to express God’s love to him.)

“Yeah.  This may seem really weird, but I saw a granddad with his kids getting coffee earlier.  The grandpa looked so peaceful and fulfilled with his kids.  And something in me just wanted to be a grandpa someday.  I don't even have a girlfriend.  But watching the grandpa made me..." (he got all misty-eyed).  

I expressed how honorable and noble his desire was, and added how I could see him being a good grandpa, and how his grandkids would be blessed to have him, someone who appreciates the role of grandpas in the world.   He started to cry and thanked me.

And at 3pm in a Fern Street alleyway, we prayed.  I don’t remember my prayer; it came naturally in the moment.  It really seemed to touch him deeply.

As I sat back down in the parklet with my coffee a homeless man approached me. “Do you have any crayons?  Someone took my crayons from my bag!”

Before I could really respond the young man from Fern Alley ran forward and said, “I’ll get you some crayons.  Hold on.”  He looked at me and winked and said, “Pay it forward, right?” And with that, he ran off to Walgreens to buy some crayons.

As I walked away I felt good.

A couple days later I shared with my mentor the events that had happened and as I did, I became aware of the Voice speaking to me and through me.  Through the reflection, I received understanding.  I heard the following:   

Thus there is a difference between having an opinion, that God is holy and gracious, and having a sense of the loveliness and beauty of that holiness and grace. There is a difference between having a rational judgment that honey is sweet and having a sense of its sweetness
— Jonathan Edwards

“I love teaching you and growing you.   But what I want to teach you and how I want to grow you can only come about through experience.  [Immediately the Jonathan Edwards quote came to mind]   To experience and sense it requires doing and acting, otherwise, you will have no point of reference and no handles to understand."

I also became aware, upon deeper reflection, that the Fern Alley prayer request was connected to a bigger mystery.  For three weeks I had been teaching on the "Our Father;" and in January in a very tearful moment of prayer, I had asked God to guide me into being a spiritual father (I had pictured it as a grandfather).    Mysteriously, in that moment in Fern Alley, I had an experience of the Father hearing my longing for spiritual fatherhood, just as the young man had an experience of God hearing his heart for being a grandfather.  I had known it but I was experiencing it and growing in it.

As Moses lays out the terms of a covenant for Israel on Yahweh’s behalf.   The elders listen to the terms and then they reply, “Na’aseh V’nishma,” translated, "we will do and we will hear," meaning, "we will do [then] we will understand."  The notion is that understanding comes from doing.  

I recently heard a rabbi explain this; “Jews see faith as an allegiance to doing mitzvah (good religious deeds), and the understanding is made known to us as we reflect on the doing of mitzvah.”

We notice this sequence on the Emmaus Road:

  • Scene 1:  Jesus 7-mile commentary on Moses and the Prophets (Revelation). 
  • Scene 2: Disciples do a mitzvah (show hospitality to the stranger: food and shelter). (Response)
  • Scene 3:  Jesus performs his signature meal routine, the 4-act gesture. (Ritual)
  • Scene 4:  They see Jesus. (Awareness)   
  • Scene 5: Jesus disappears.
  • Scene 6:  Disciples reflect.  And they understand. (Awakening to Acknowledgement)



  • Conversation.  What was the most recent time God spoke to you?  What did he say?  (If you are not sure, then start with what was a time you think God might have been speaking with you?  And why do you think so?)
  • Reflection.   Reflect on a time when you felt to do something that didn't make any sense at the time.  What came of it?  What did you learn or come to understand through it?  
  • Prayer. (almost there)


UPNEXT:  Praying From Within (the wilderness)