One of my favorite verses in Scripture has long been Isaiah 64:1.
"Oh that You would rend the heavens and come down, that the mountains might quake at Your presence-"
I have long loved this verse because it holds, as it's central focus the might and power of an almighty God. The type of power that only God is able to posses, the type of power that God does not have, it's the power that He is. I have often prayed that verse, wanting nothing more than to see my prayers answered in that type of mountain quaking power.
I have often cried out knowing that the only thing that could bring my soul comfort would be if God spoke. And if He spoke loudly. So much in our culture and lives is so constant and loud that it seems that the only way that we would be able to hear God speak louder than everything else. Which He is more than able to do.
But so often, that is not what God has done. At least not for me. And at least not for many I know. Most often the voice of God comes in a much different way. In I Kings 19 Elijah finds himself in a space where I feel kindred to him. He is in a place where a darkness and depression are so deep that he calls out and asks God to take him home*. A prayer that I know well. He calls out and knows that what He needs is for God to speak and/or act loudly.
But God does something else. Something that Elijah did not know He needed more than the heaven’s being rended and the mountains quaking. God had send Elijah to a quiet place. A place where all he had, and all he could depend upon was God. And in this place God came to Elijah. And when He did there was a loud wind that blew. But in it God did not speak. A loud earthquake followed, but yet again there was no words from God within the loudness of the moment. Even a roaring fire came by Elijah. And yet again he sat empty, with no words from Heaven for comfort.
But after all of these there came a still, quiet wind. The type that you only notice if you are still and quiet enough. And it was in this wind that God spoke to Elijah. It was in this quiet wind that Elijah was reminded that he was not alone. And it was because He had been taken away from every loud voice of his world that he was even able to hear it.
Through the prophet Hosea God reminds us that it is in the wilderness places, the quiet places that He often speaks and restores. “This is why I am going to lure her (Israel) and lead her into the wilderness and speak to her.**” Brennan Manning quotes this verse in the last chapter of His book The Ragamuffin Gospel. In that same chapter Manning writes, “The first step towards rejuvenation begins with accepting where you are and exposing your poverty, frailty, and emptiness to the love that is everything. Don’t try to feel anything, think anything, or do anything. With all the goodwill in the world you cannot make anything happen. Don’t force prayer. Simply relax in the presence of the God you half believe in and ask for a touch of folly.***”
So often I can forget that it is in these quiet whispers that God speaks, because so often I do not allow myself to be in the places so quiet that they are heard. I try and practice the discipline of quiet. But it is hard for me. Because in these quiet places the voice of shame, anxiety, depression, and inadequacy seem to grow louder than any other voice.
I have to work to focus not on what I believe myself to be, but on who Abba has told me I am. The stillness of meditation upon scripture. True meditation. The intimacy of prayer that last as long as new lovers talking on the phone. The centering that always follows times of personal worship. These things come hard. Almost as if Scripture is true when it calls such actions war.
But it is within these times of quiet that the whisper of God can speak. And as we all know, a love story is held together more by the whispers of a great lover than the grandiose actions of a well-to-do suitor. Though both can have their place. At least, as a romantic, I believe so.
So I invite you to work to find those places of silence. Boldly faces all the voices that stand to condemn you, knowing that One greater than they stand with you declaring them to be liars. Pray. Pray intimately and pray the truth of Scripture.
And know that if and when you find yourself in these places of quiet and in wilderness seasons there is a coming wind. Gentle and quiet. Though I always want the thunder, I am far more thankful for the quiet wind--the gentle voice that may only come from an intimate lover or a loving Father.
* I Kings 19:4
** Hosea 2:14