“After the fire, there was a sound. Thin. Quiet.”
This time I was certain that the house was going to blow down. Winds that were the force of hurricane gusts brought an impressive cold front to the Outer Banks, and the windows rattled, the screens tore, and the house swayed. This three-story house was swaying in the wind so hard that it woke me up from a dead sleep. Winds are not uncommon on our little island on the edge of the continent, but this was a doozy. There is something both unsettling and reassuring when we are confronted with the power and force of a true “act of God” of Old Testament proportions. We can do nothing but listen to its howl and wait for it to subside on its own accord.
In the book of 1 Kings, Elijah has fled for his life, with Jezebel on his heels. He runs to the safety of a cave and has a one-on-one with God, complaining that he is the only righteous man left in Israel, and now they are about to kill him. He is instructed by an angel of the Lord to climb the same mountain where Moses received the commandments, and wait.
God sends a great and strong wind to assault the mountain, but he himself is not in the wind. Then an earthquake follows, but he is not in the earthquake. Finally, a fire rages through, but still no God. When the ruckus is over, God chooses then to speak to Elijah in a still, small, thin, and quiet voice:
1 Kings 19 (NIV)
11 The Lord said, “Go out and stand on the mountain in the presence of the Lord, for the Lord is about to pass by.”
Then a great and powerful wind tore the mountains apart and shattered the rocks before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind. After the wind there was an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake. 12 After the earthquake came a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire.
And after the fire came a gentle whisper. 13 When Elijah heard it, he pulled his cloak over his face and went out and stood at the mouth of the cave.
After the power display, God tells Elijah that it’s time to get back to work. Elijah receives his marching orders, is given a helper, and sent back into the trenches. His mission to bring Israel back to the Lord.
I often wonder if I am missing God in the loudness that surrounds me.
I wonder if we miss our own marching orders because we are so focused on the wind, the earthquake and the fire that we don’t stand still long enough to tune our ear to the whisper. So much to do! We are so overwhelmed with busyness! I’m WAAY too busy to sit quietly and listen! The winds of our jobs, the earthquakes of family responsibilities, and the fire of maintaining our day-to-day lives keep us from hearing the still, small voice that offers the solution.
Woe unto us if we continue living in the cacophony. God is patiently waiting us out. He will not shout over the noise we have surrounded ourselves with, but rather will wait until we are ready to tune our busy noise out so we can tune his quiet love in.
Take heed. As Advent approaches, it is going to get louder. Busy upon busy, we will frantically run around preparing to celebrate the….what? Oh, yes, the birth of the Savior, who was quietly laid in a humble manger with only the sounds of the soft-spoken cow and the peacefully snoring donkey providing background noise. Christ is the focus, so don’t get caught up in lights and tinsel and all the rest of the noise so much that you miss the moment.
God with us, Emmanuel. Be quiet! And listen.
Blustery Day by Michelle Robertson.
Lyrics to “Still Small Voice”. by Bob Franke:
In a still small voice in the middle of the night,
Brother Martin heard the simple truth
And he followed its pleading, though it led to a crossroads,
Parting in the days of my youth.
From the heart of my city came a single scream
And I heard it through all the white noise.
And the papers told us that they’d killed The Dream,
But they never killed the still small voice.
All the lies come at you in a million ways
Some you hear and some you tell yourself
And they say that virtue is a pile of gold
And that weapons are a nations wealth
But when kings stand naked in their ugly schemes
Will the poor of this world rejoice
Will they sell their children down a bloody stream
Or will they listen to a still small voice
Now the one-eyed bandit in your living room
Will convince you that you have no time
And it will swear to take you on your one free ride
While it’s looking for your one last dime
But the light of heaven is a simple gift
And you can see it when you make that choice
It will shine like riches in your inmost heart
But it will speak in a still small voice
Oh the skies will open when the trumpet sounds
and its echo will shake these halls
And these stones so silent as they ring us round
they will shatter when they hear that call
And our chains will clatter when they hit the ground
and the people make a joyful noise
But when My Lover comes to call me home
it will be in a still, small voice