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By Eric A. Clayton

My family has entered a complicated stage in our relationship with Disney music. Increasingly, the soundtracks our girls want to listen to on short (and painfully long) car rides involve reprises.

“SKIP!” my nearly four-year-old will yell from the back seat. Then, for good measure: “We just heard this one.”

“We didn’t though,” I’ll say in reply. “This is a reprise.”

I don’t know why that’s my response. I don’t know why I don’t do the obvious. How easy it would be to just hit skip, to move through that ensemble of princess music with increased expediency.

“What’s a sapize?”

“A reprise is when we return to pieces and themes of music we’ve already heard.” Even as I answer, I can feel the confusion simmering. “Usually to reinforce a plot point.” What am I doing? The kid’s not even four! I mentally kick myself again for wading into such unnecessary waters.

“Oh,” my daughter replies. “Why?” And I give some tedious response that eventually gets us to the next song. But a few tracks later, that little voice from the backseat pipes up again. “Daddy — is this a surprise?”

“A surprise? No, we’ve been listening to the same soundtrack. This is just…” I trail off. “A reprise?”

“Yea — a sabize.”

I kick myself for at least the third time in that short car ride for introducing a complex vocabulary word to my almost four-year-old that relies heavily on proper pronunciation of the letter “r.”

“Yes,” I say. “You’re right — this actually is a reprise.”

We’ve had this conversation, or something quite close to it, nearly every time I’ve driven her to or from school over the last month. So many times, in fact, that I no longer even pause or stumble over her inevitably imperfect pronunciation. Rather, I marvel at how good she’s gotten at identifying reprises.

“Just so you know,” I tell my wife, pointing to our youngest. “It might sound like she’s saying surprise; in fact, she means reprise.” My wife nods. Any shortcuts we can take to understanding that little voice’s curious pronunciation are always welcome. Context — and repeated context at that — is everything.

So, too, in our spiritual lives. How hard it is to understand God’s whisper at first! “What was that? Speak up! Speak clearly!” We listen for the words when really we need to settle into God’s presence in our unique context. That’s when the patterns begin to emerge, when God’s word becomes clearer and more easily heard again and again. We see God’s invitation play out against the backdrop of where we are and what we’re doing.

“Ah — you’re pointing to this gift I have and showing this particular place in which I might put it to good use.” And again and again.

And then, once God’s word becomes clear, becomes more easily recognizable, I wonder if we don’t have a desire within us to help others better understand, better recognize the Spirit at work in their lives. “For me it was like this. For you it might be like that.”

The fruits of our prayer certainly cannot be reduced to the mumblings of a four-year-old. And yet, God is in all things; we are all bearers of Christ. And so, in these simple, ordinary, mundane moments, we practice listening for God. We become more aware, more attentive, more available.

Because, indeed, God is there in that four-year-old voice. God is there in the uneven responses from that 35-year-old father. And God is there in the music, in the repetition, in that melody that says: You know this place; we’ve been here before. But now there’s more for you to behold.

This reflection is part of the award-winning weekly email series, “Now Discern This.” If you’d like to get reflections like this one directly in your inbox every Wednesday, sign up here.

a person smiling for the cameraEric A. Clayton is the award-winning author of Cannonball Moments: Telling Your Story, Deepening Your Faith and My Life with the Jedi: The Spirituality of Star Wars, an exploration of Star Wars through the lens of Ignatian spirituality (Loyola Press). He is the deputy director of communications at the Jesuit Conference of Canada and the United States. His essays on spirituality, parenting and pop culture have appeared in America MagazineNational Catholic ReporterU.S. Catholic, Busted Halo and more, and he is a regular contributor to Give Us This Day, and Dork Side of the Force, where he blogs about Star Wars. His fiction has been published by Black Hare Press, Small Wonders Magazine, Air and Nothingness Press and more.  Sign up for his Substack “Story Scraps” here. He lives in Baltimore, MD with his wife, two young daughters and their cat.